Thursday, February 24, 2022

Moments of the Year 2021

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 23rd 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.


After efficiently taking down a guard, the way Elena (Florence Pugh) struggles and grunts to move the body. Superhuman ability juxtaposed with real humanity.  “Black Widow”

The way a woman (Marion Cotillard) gently buries her face in the shoulder of her lover (Adam Driver) as he sings to her. One of the few emotionally resonant moment between a hurried romance in Leos Carax’s bonkers “Annette”


“Shiva Baby” and the sly little smile given as two women hold hands in the backseat of a mini van


Lady Di (Kristen Stewart) playing a game with her children by candlelight in “Spencer”.  One of the few times she’s not vibrating with angst in Pablo Larrain’s masterful film

The subtle (but seismic) shift as Vicky Kreps wakes up and says “oh hi Anders” in “Bergman Island”. In a year of prism box films about filmmaking and finding oneself within the camera’s images, Mia Hanson-Love’s effort is startling and beautiful.

In “The Lost Daughter”, the thrust of a hat pin, almost imperceptible, and the way it jars Olivia Colman back into her reality of broken motherhood.

“Oh cool, ma, a hamburger!”   “The Many Saints of Newark


The running joke of why a three star general would charge everyone for White House snacks. The world may be ending but it reeeaaally bothers Jennifer Lawrence.   “Don’t Look Up”

Harriet Sansom Harris and the way “Licorize Pizza” holds on her face in a jazzy, scene stealing performance as a talent scout who seems to control the world at her desk


The way Bob Well’s voice cracks as he talks about his son’s suicide.  The weaving of fact and fiction become something cathartic in Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland”

Wesley Snipes and his walk.  “Coming 2 America”

Sly and the Family Stone taking the stage in “Summer of Soul”


An editor’s burial.  “The French Dispatch”

In the middle of a shouting rant on live television, a scientist (Leonardo DiCaprio) momentarily knocks his glasses askew…. And then keeps on going. Whether it was a gaffe or scripted, it lends a moment of unhinged passion to things.  “Don’t Look Up”

With a dissonant Jonny Greenwood score, the long shot as it follows Gary (Cooper Hoffman) inside and around a promotional event, eventually ending up with him being tackled and hauled away by the police for murder. “Licorice Pizza”

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Cherry Blossoms and the Trials of The Makioka Sisters

Kon Ichikawa's "The Makioka Sisters" trades on alot of the same sentiments that made Ozu such a beloved figure in international cinema. It's a film that concerns itself primarily with the task of finding suitable husbands for two of the 4 titular sisters... something that drove so many of Ozu's efforts about the nuclear family and its important formation. And while Ozu deserves his place in the echelon, Ichikawa has worked a bit more in the margins and toggled through all types of genre. And while no one is going to accuse him of stepping on Ozu's toes in subject matter, in my opinion, "The Makioka Sisters" is better than anything ever produced by him.

Genuinely humane and bitingly funny, "The Makioka Sisters" does involve four of them, but it eventually narrows its view on the two youngest- indecisive but independent Yukiko (Sayuri Yoshinaga) and volatile, brash Taeko (Yuko Kotegawa). The two older sisters Sachiko (Yoshiko Sakuma) and Tsuruko (Keiko Kishi) spend most of their days trying to find suitors for both, but the film underlines something deeper than arranged marriages. That the Makioka family is well off (but often not as important as the male suitor's families lined up) is a central theme, but as the film travels in years after its starting point of 1938, their family declines. Add to that young Taeko runs off with a bar owner when her real love dies a peasant's death because he couldn't get surgery in time and Yukiko demures any advances from any established suitor, and Ichikawa's adaptation makes a strong case that the family is far more liberal and free spirited than the aristocratic frame they're often poised within. They want to conform, but young Yukiko and Taeko certainly have other ideas.

Full of wonderful, quickly edited reaction shots (mostly from the family's help in young Oharu played by Yukari Uehara) and a dinner meeting that carefully frames everyone in uncomfortable banter, "The Makioka Sisters" is also one of Ichikawa's most humorous efforts. Listening to a suitor ramble on about his work in aquatic reproduction and then hearing Yukiko turn him down with "I'm not a fish" gently underscores the admiration that slowly builds for these four women throughout the film. They have personalities. They grow on us like an expansive intimate epic should. And the slow puncture of Japanese cultures and mores feels like something revolutionary in the hands of a master director like Ichikawa.

Released in 1983, "The Makioka Sisters" (only 1 of his 93 films spanning from the late 30's until 2006) also uses color brilliantly. From a face bathed in red light inside a photography production room to the sickly green hue of a corner bar, it's a film that sees a purpose in each designation. Of course, there's the obligatory cherry blossoms as well. In a scene that bookends the opening and closing images, time has passed and life has been altered. But luckily, there's no great sadness. No one has died and the world is still spinning, although Yukiko and Taeko are at vastly different paths in their lives. And even though some melancholy has settled, "The Makioka Sisters" proves that even minor shifts can have tremendous impact.

Monday, February 14, 2022

My Fav Movies of 2021

 For full descriptions, please visit this list that published last month here at Dallas Film Now


13. Procession, directed by Robert Greene

12. Lily Topples the World, directed by Jeremy Workman

11. Shiva Baby, directed by Emma Seligman

10. Quo vadis Aida?, directed by Jasmila Zbanic

9. The Card Counter, directed by Paul Schrader

8. No Sudden Move, directed by Steven Soderbergh

7. Summer of Soul, directed by Questlove

6. Spencer, directed by Pablo Larrain

5. Titane, directed by Julia Ducournau

4. The World To Come, directed by Mona Fastvold

3.  Bergman Island, directed by Mia Hansen-Love

2. Wife of a Spy, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

1. Licorice Pizza, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson