Sunday, January 15, 2017

Moments of 2016

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 (18 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.




After ninety minutes of carnage, the way a man (Macon Blair) stumbles across a campsite and murmurs “We need the police.”   “Green Room”

An RV….a yellow raincoat flailing in the wind…. And the rush of music as a woman tries to catch up with a car on the road in “Tumbledown”

In Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight”, the sheer honesty and emotion on the face of Mahershala Ali as he silently answers a little boy’s questions at the dinner table

Emma Stone's audition scene in "La La Land"

“The Conjuring 2”. Hands slowly wrapping from around the edges of a painted picture, literally coming to life in the dark edges of the shadows. A scene just as spine tingling and eerie as the best Kiyoshi Kurosawa freak outs in films like “Pulse”

The first divergent strings of Scott Walker’s score to Brady Corbet’s weird and austere debut “The Childhood of a Leader” and a young boy, glimpsed from outside a window, wearing wings

Taika Waititi as a priest, eulogizing during a funeral about doors leading to other doors, and then his perfectly-timed aloofness when, after asking what is behind a second door, young Ricky (Julian Dennison) says “vegetables?”    “Hunt For the Wilderpeople”

The uncontrollable, girlish giggle let out by a nun as Mathilde (Lou de Laag) gently examines her pregnant belly, and then the way she quickly stifles the laugh as Mother Superior looks on in discontent.  A caveat of WWII history given grace and intelligence in Anne Fontaine’s “The Innocents”

In “Dheepan”, the elegant framing of two people in separate windows, surrounded by a sickly yellowish light- a little girl plays in the far corner of the frame while the woman (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) on the left pleads with her husband to return home

One of the more hypnotic transitions of the year in Gabriel Mascaro’s “Neon Bull” sees a man lovingly fitting a woman for her dress and head size, then the same woman bathed in red light as she dances a striptease wearing a horse-head

The way the camera patiently swings back and forth, POV from inside the wooden cage of a Jesuit priest (Andrew Garfield), as he's forced to watch peasants being drawn outside and killed in front of his eyes. "Silence"

“There looks like a man who could foreclose on a house…. I’m gonna go talk to him.” Jeff Bridges doing his best Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”

Max Richter’s simply stunning music that bookends the more human aspects of Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece “Arrival”

During a Day of the Dead celebration… and all the face masks that come with that…. An array of hands reaching up for Superman as he gently drops a little girl into their arms. One of the few poetic moments in an overtly stylized actioner. “Batman V. Superman”

“It’s easier in here without a penis. We don’t shank each other. We form self help groups.” The response by “Miss Sloane” (Jessica Chastain) when told she looks good in prison

A 50’s dance scene that transforms in front of young Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as his band rehearses, momentarily washing away the sadness and disappointment of reality.  “Sing Street”

In Naomi Kawase’s delicate and aching “Sweet Bean”, the way Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) quietly breaks down as he eats with Tokue, followed by the way she gently consoles him by saying “one should smile when they eat something delicious.”

In the middle of a spasmic dance to The Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue”, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) looks and dances straight into the camera.  “A Bigger Splash”

A stray bullet. A random man on stilts at a wild, orgiastic party being hit by said stray bullet. Just one of the many shocking and seriously funny detours in Shane Black’s wonderful sun noir “The Nice Guys”

In Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land”, after a long walk together, Sebastian (Gosling) returns to his car that was parked right in front of the valet all along

The way  Kevin (Andre Holland) licks his fingers and moves seductively around a kitchen, fixing a late night dinner for his friend.  “Moonlight”

In Chad Hartigan’s “Morris From America”, the gentle exterior pan around a moving car’s windows as Craig Robinson recounts, to his son (Markees Chritsmas) the time he traveled to Germany to meet up with his girlfriend. Life lessons expounded into a moving relationship between son and father, encompassing forgiveness and understanding

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”.  A night time raid set to the tune of Harry Nilsson

In the foreground, a man’s face in clear focus as he throws out questions… and in the background, out of focus, a little girl transforms into something hideous. Just one of the many unsettling tricks in “The Conjuring 2” and its nightmarish palette

In “Christine”, the way Rebecca Hall offhandedly remarks that the vase of flowers sitting on their news desk is fake.  Sometimes it takes a rare and sensitive person to notice the artificiality in the world and then a struggle to ignore it. It won't happen, but Rebecca Hall deserves Oscar support

Those final 4-5 minutes in “The Childhood of a Leader”. Words can’t do justice to the malestrom of images and music as a ‘leader’ comes into his own. God help us all

The final glance between  Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) and the way they nod at each other, their eyes encompassing so much forgiveness, regret, warmth and, finally, acceptance.  “La La Land”

The way the camera suddenly swings upward and a group of bodies are walking on the ceiling before our perspective is changed, I can’t imagine a better way to transcribe man’s first entrance into an alien spaceship than that in “Arrival”

"Indignation". The almost doll-like eyes growing a bit dimmer as Olivia (Sarah Gadon) quickly covers up the scars on her wrists.

While asking about his two children, the way Fahim (Christopher Abbot) remarks that his boy is “getting strong.” When asked about his little girl, he comments “she’s stronger”.   “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

The long sequence as Tokue (Kirin Kiki) and Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase) make their first batch of bean paste together.    “Sweet Bean”

One woman hangs by a rope from a tree while the other screams in jealousy, all captured in a serene long shot. "The Handmaiden"

That nervy opening credit sequence in Tom Ford's "Nocturnal Animals". From that moment on, expect nothing and suspect everything

In "Les Cowboys", the look between Kid (Finnegan Oldfield) and his sister in a small grocery store. No words are exchanged, but its crystal clear that this tale is far more devastating than its unexpected narrative turns suggest





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