Thursday, January 17, 2019

Moments of 2018

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 (now in its twentieth edition!)) 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 sheer frustration of a woman (Maryana Spivak) tossing her head back on the car headrest, and the abrupt overhead shot as her hair flows wildly in the wind, illuminated on-and-off by the light outside the car as a heavy metal song plays on the radio.   “Loveless”

- The first time Brady rides his horse again and the swell of music….. “The Rider”

- The nose of a dog leading us to a jaw dropping twist of narrative in Steve McQueen's jaundiced heist film "Widows"

- The entrance in slow motion , mouthing the words…..”where’s the biiiigggg felllaaaa?”   “The Death of Stalin”

- In Cory Finley’s restrained ode to psychopathic youth, we’re not quite sure why the camera is being so deliberate, but a long, serpentine stead cam shot as Amanda (Olivia Cook) wanders around a big house, quietly snooping on its surroundings.  “Thoroughbreds”

- Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (Kiki Rivers) and the bursts of glee as they shout in the middle of the street. Youthful exuberance soon cut short by the inequality of everything.  "If Beale Street Could Talk"

- Expecting his love to be reciprocated, all the man (Nathan Zellner) gets is a rock to the face. So goes the unexpected pathos of the Zellner Brother’s “Damsel”

- Perhaps the shot of the year and one worthy of DePalma- outside a heavily glass windowed exterior, the camera follows action in and around the interior of a house of four girls come under siege from a group of men hell-bent on violence.  “Assassination Nation”

- An explosion of a car observed silently from a lengthy overhead shot, then cut to the abrasiveness felt on the ground. Peter Berg’s editing style may be distractingly overwrought at times, but this moment of extreme opposites works well.  “Mile 22”

- In “Happy As Lazzaro”, the faces of a group of people as they wait on the stairs to be let into a lunch that will never happen

- The faces of Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as they ride up an escalator and the swell of music that surrounds them, both trying to hide the emotions swirling just beneath the surface.  “Disobedience”

- In Lynn Ramsey’s deliberately fractured masterpiece “You Were Never Really Here”, the first sound of Jonny Greenwood’s jangly, nerve-shredding guitar as a man (Joaquin Phoenix) slumbers down a motel hallway and out the fire exit door

- Playing musical chairs in front of Stalin’s coffin in order to have a conversation.  “The Death of Stalin”

- The first appearance of Emily (Blake Lively) in “A Simple Favor”, complete in pants suit, moving in slow motion through the wind and rain as an umbrella blows by her like a scared puppy.

- Quite the muscular shot in “Adrift“- a man (Sam Claflin) hovers on the edge of a cliff and then jumps into the water below as the camera hovers right alongside him and then follows him sidelong into the plunge

- In “Hearts Beat Loud”, Nick Offerman asking his daughter if her mood swings are because she’s found a girlfriend and the casual understanding between father and daughter not tied to the usual ravages of expectations in most films

- “It’s tough teaching faith to people.”    Jonah Hill in “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot”

- In “Assassination Nation”, a girl carries a metal bar as the camera pans along the ground behind her for what feels like an eternity before shifting upside down to observe the blood-soaked carnage said bar just inflicted on another girl

- “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot”, the pained, mournful expression on Joaquin Phoenix’s face as he’s flipped over slowly in a bed, perhaps fully realizing for the first time  his confined status in life.

- In Naomi Kawase’s gentle “Radiance”- With traffic lights gently out of focus behind her, Misako (Ayame Misaki) closes her eyes and walks on a path for the blind, partially trying to understand the darkness of those around her and partially to imbue herself with patience.

- “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”- Zan (Elle fanning) belting out an impromptu punk rock song with Enn (Alex Sharp) and the subsequent psychedelic scene that follows

- In “A Simple Favor”, the nervous look over her shoulder Anna Kendrick does when seated at the library looking over old computer articles about Emily (Blake Lively). It’s a film that continually echoes and makes fun of 40’s film noir as if soccer moms ran the P.I. firm.

- "Mid90's" and the fall through a hole in the rough and the shattered 'thud' that presupposes a young man's attempt at skateboarding greatness

- Xavier Legrand's "Custody"... the final ten minutes, which is far more terrifying than any horror film eleased this year.

- The bracing pop of an explosion, then cut to the exterior of a space shuttle where a metal door crumples outward like pop corn.  “First Man”

- The floor level crawl of the camera and a quick pivot onto her when Susie (Dakota Johnson) murmurs, “I’ll do the dance….” and her sinister legacy begins to take shape.  “Suspiria”

- A swift opening of attic doors and the ensuing gatlin gun battle that eats up about 7 minutes of screen time in Jeremy Saulnier’s “Hold the Dark”. Evil is brooding and inbred into every frame of his uneven but memorable violent reverie

- The smile and look Dr. Shirley (Marshala Ali) gives Tony (Viggo Mortenson) after proofreading his fnal letter to his wife, giving it his nod of approval with, Yes, Tony, it’s perfect.”   “Green Book”

- “Panshot!”     “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

- Organ music that follows a family into the street in “Happy As Lazzaro”.   Ethereal and magical

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