Top 50 New to Me Viewings of 2015

The biggest change in my viewing habits from 2014 to 2015 was the centering of specific auteurs, which is much closer to the way my boyfriend watches movies than I choose to experience cinema. I usually take a sampler platter approach to the way I engage with cinema, but by living with someone who is far more organized than I my viewing habits were altered to some degree. His changed as well and my attitude of picking films on a whim became present in his life. We even kept a hat around this year with specific movies on slips of paper we’d draw that we’d eventually end up watching (an idea of mine). However, we scrapped that hat when we started an Alfred Hitchcock project, which you’ll see visible in this list. Cinema always remains interesting. The movies I watched this year had their strengths and weaknesses, and there are certain goals I did not keep (50-50 gender split, which ended up being close to 35/65), but cinema is always the highlight of my year. This top 50 represents the best and brightest of those viewings I had in the previous year. At the top of the list is Robert Altman’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” which has been on my mind more than any other film in the past twelve months. It even has Cher. The other 49 movies do not carry that distinction so that made the choice for #1 ultimately easy to land upon. Here’s to hoping 2016 is as fruitful, and I’ll finally hit that 50/50 gender gap in viewing. (As always new releases and rewatches are excluded from the list)

1. Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Robert Altman, 1982)
2. Wheels on Meals (Sammo Hung, 1984)

3. Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondo, 1995)
4. Police Story (Jackie Chan, 1985
5. The Day I Became a Woman (Marzieh Meshkini, 2000)
6. Hookers on Davie (Janis Cole & Holly Dale, 1984)
7. New York, New York (Martin Scorsese, 1977)
8. The Story of Marie and Julien (Jacques Rivette, 2003)
9. Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926)
10. Green Snake (Hark Tsui, 1993)
11. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
12. All About Eve (Joseph L. Makiewicz, 1950)
13. Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985)
14. Dyketactics (Barbara Hammer, 1974)
15. Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991)

16. Dance, Girl Dance (Dorothy Arzner, 1940)
17. Peking Opera Blues (Hark Tsui, 1986)
18. Waitress (Adrienne Shelly, 2007)
19. Birds (Takashi Miike, 2000)
20. Limelight (Charlie Chaplin, 1952)
21. Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)

22. The Blade (Hark Tsui, 1995)
23. Challenge of the Masters (Lau Kar-leung, 1975)
24. A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon (Hark Tsui, 1989)
25. A Better Tomorrow (John Woo, 1986)
26. Needing You (Johnnie To, 2000)
27. Le Pont Du Nord (Jacques Rivette, 1981)
28. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
29. Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (Lau Kar-Leung, 1984)
30. The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
31. No Fear, No Die (Claire Denis, 1994)
32. Monsieur Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin, 1947)
33. Katie Tippel (Paul Verhoeven, 1975)
34. Dragon Inn (King Hu, 1967)
35. L’invitation Au Voyage (Germaine Dulac, 1927)
36. Sheer Madness (Margarethe Von Trotta, 1983)
37. Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City (Takashi Miike, 2009)
38. The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson, 1943)
39. I Was a Male War Bride (Howard Hawks, 1949)
40. My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, 1979)
41. Jour de Fete (Jacques Tati, 1949)
42. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
43. Stagefright: Aquarius (Michele Soavi, 1987)
44. I’ll Take You There (Adrienne Shelly, 1999)
45. Friends with Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
46. Once Upon a Time in China I-III (Hark Tsui, 1991-1993)
47. Merry-Go-Round (Jacques Rivette, 1981)
48. About Elly (Asghar Farhadi, 2009)
49. Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)
50. Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999)

Blood and Ballet: A Top 100 in Horror

I’ve always tried to unpack why horror appeals to me and why I like to tread closely to the edge of some of the most depressing and upsetting violent cinema that there is but I’ve never been able to come up with a clear cut answer. I think part of it has to do with having grown up feeling fractured and broken, and horror is oftentimes about women who are trying to figure out how to put the pieces back together in their lives. I haven’t watched nearly as much horror since I’ve grown happier, which lends weight to that theory I suppose, so I have to assume it’s accurate. Up until last year I lived a pretty miserable life, and horror ended up being the safety net I latched onto oftentimes in all those years prior. Not all of these films fit the bill of being about fractured characters, but a lot of them do. I like horror that lingers and sticks with me. The kind of horror that slips into your bones and can’t be scrubbed out. I suppose I like trauma then, and the effects of dealing with it. Laura Palmer comes to mind when I think of horror, and Laurie Strode, Carrie White and Rei. These are broken characters, and up until last year I considered myself among them. I still slip into those modes, but not nearly as often as I used to. I’m grateful I had women who actually felt like me along the way though, and I still sometimes go back to them and wish I could help fix them. 
Having said all that. Suspiria still sits at number one, because above all else just give me witches. For I’ve been called evil in my life simply for my life choices so why wouldn’t I align myself with those of Satan? I appear to be already if my family is any indication.
Hail Satan…..Hail Horror.

1. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
    2. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

    3. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

    4. End of Evangelion (Hideaki Anno, 1997)

    5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hoober, 1974)

    6. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

    7. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)

    8. Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)

    9. Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)

    10. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

    11. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)

    12. Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1995)

    13. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
    14. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)

    15. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)

    16. Inside (Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury, 2007)
    17. Valerie and her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires, 1970)

      18. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

      19. The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)

      20. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
      21. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)

      22. [SAFE] (Todd Haynes, 1995)

      23. Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
        24. Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960)
        25. Halloween 2 (Rob Zombie, 2009)

        26. Day of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1985)

        27. In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter, 1994)

        28. The Happiness of the Katakuris (Takashi Miike, 2001)
        29. Gremlins 2: The One With Hulk Hogan (Joe Dante, 1990)
        30. Bastards (Claire Denis, 2012)
        31. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)

          32. Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)

          33. Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)

          34. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
          35. Ginger Snaps (Jon Fawcett, 2000)

          36. The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks, 1951)

          37. Martyrs (Pascal Laugier)

          38. Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986)
          39. Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzout, 1959)
          40. Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971)
          41. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
            42. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)

            43. Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964)
            44. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)

            45. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
            46. I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)

            47. Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter, 1987)
            48. Gozu (Takashi Miike, 2003)

              49. The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

              49. After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)

              50. Alucarda (Juan Lopez Moctezuma, 1976)

              51. The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2010)

              52. Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)
              53. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
              54. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
              56. The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1983)

              57. Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi, 1987)
              58. Tenebrae (Dario Argento, 1982)
              59. Rosemarys Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)

              60. Don;t Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1973)
              61. Christine (John Carpenter, 1983)
              62. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919)
              63. The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964)
              64. Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava, 1964)
              65. Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
              66. May (Lucky McKee, 2004)
              67. The Hitcher (Robert Harmon, 1986)
              68. Martin (George A. Romero, 1977)
              69. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
              70. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2009)
              71. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)
              72. The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
              73. The Stepfrod Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1975)
              74. 3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)

              75. The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)
              76. The Ghost of Yotsuya (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1959)
              77. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
              79. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
              79. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
              80. Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)
              81. The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2009)

              82. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
              83. The Curse of Frankenstein (Terrence Fisher, 1957)
              84. The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)
              85. Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter, 2005)

              86. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
              87. Village of the Damned (John Carpenter, 1995)
              88. Trick ‘R Treat (Michael Dougherty, 2007)
              89. The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)
              90. Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)

              91. The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)

              92. Witches Hammer (Otakar Vavra, 1970)
              93. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
              94. Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001)
              95. Girly (Freddie Francis, 1970)
              96. Sinister (Scott Derrickson, 2012)
              97. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Robert Fuest, 1971)
              98. Dracula’s Daughter (Lambert Hillyer, 1936)

              99. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

              100. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)

              Top 50 New To Me Films of 2014

              My year in cinema was characterized by auteurist spurts and my tendency to seek out cinema with themes that are of interest. It is ironic that 2014 was the year when I abandoned the idea of auteur theory being strictly linked to directors, and yet my list is rife with filmmakers who I decided to explore this year. The biggest director of 2014 was Chantal Akerman. Her cinema of inward, slow moving beauty connected instantly and while I had been a fan in the past this was the year she possibly became my favourite director. Queer Cinema has a strong hold on this list with the likes of Paris is Burning and John Waters films making appearances. Dance is strong as well, as my interest in ballet intensified this year when oddly enough I became interested in wrestling. The two share components of filming bodies in action and Wiseman and Akerman found the beauty of movement in “Ballet” and “One Day Pina Asked”. John Carpenter and Jean Luc Godard were of great interest to me last year as well as I finally undid my preconceived notions of Carpenter’s lesser discussed works and found them to be just as strong as anything else he ever made. Starman may even be his best film, as he’s never been more human telling the story of an alien. Godard’s work in the 80s, along with Notre Musique, delighted me last year as my appreciation for his breaking down of form while keeping with familiar languages clicked in a way that opened him up to me in a way he had previously been closed. However, the crown jewel of last year was Paris is Burning. A film made of portraits, of beautiful people who long to exist and express themselves.

              One note: Films from 2013 and 2014 are banned from the list. Every other year is eligible.

              1. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
              2. Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara, 1981)
              3. Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974)
              4. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To, 2011)
              5. Starman (John Carpenter, 1984)
              6. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
              7. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
              8. Hotel Monterey (Chantal Akerman, 1972)
              9. Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun, 2001)

              10. They Live (John Carpenter, 1988)
              11. Notre Musique (Jean Luc Godard, 2004)
              12. Something Wild (Jack Garfein, 1962)
              13. Ballet (Frederick Wiseman, 1995)
              14. The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972)
              15. Toute Une Nuit (Chantal Akerman, 1982)
              16. King Lear (Jean Luc Godard, 1987)
              17. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante, 1990)
              18. Hard, Fast & Beautiful (Ida Lupino, 1951)
              19. Duelle (Jacques Rivette, 1976)

              20. Deadly Outlaw Rekka (Takashi Miike, 2002)
              21. Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
              22. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, 1988)
              23. Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976)
              24. The Doll (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919)
              25. Christine (John Carpenter, 1983)
              26. Martin (George A. Romero, 1976)

              27. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
              28. Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993)
              29. Ishtar (Elaine May, 1987)
              30. Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
              31. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minelli, 1944)
              32. Bound (Lily & Lana Wachowski, 1996)
              33. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)
              34. One Day Pina Asked (Chantal Akerman, 1983)
              35. The Immortal Story (Orson Welles, 1968)
              36. The Great Muppet Caper (Jim Henson, 1981)
              37. The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953)
              38. The Long Day Closes (Terrence Davies, 1993)
              39. D’est (Chantal Akerman, 1993)
              40. The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)
              41. Five Deadly Venoms (Cheh Chang, 1978)
              42. High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1968)
              43. Come Drink With Me (King Hu, 1966)
              44. L’Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)
              45. Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965)
              46. Ace Attorney (Takashi Miike, 2012)
              47. First Name: Carmen (Jean Luc Godard, 1983)
              48. Outrage (Ida Lupino, 1950)
              49. Working Girls (Lizzie Borden, 1986)
              50. The Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick,, 1957)

              2013: Year in Review

              I live in a world of dreams. I sit and watch images pass by me as they find their way into my memory and my heart. I vicariously live through their suffering, heartache, triumph and desires. I latch onto the images and stories of people I wish I could be and the people I wish I could know without this boundary of screen, but I find myself there while it lasts and for moments I am with them and they are a part of my world. It’s not just the power of escapism that draws me to cinema, but the power of seeing entire worlds created and finding a connection to those people living within them. I live my life through the scope of everything I experience within the world of cinema. It has been the one constant in my life for as long as I can remember and those experiences I had with this sacred art in 2013 were immense and unforgettable.

              Best Films
              1. Top of the Lake (Jane Campion): Campion’s mini-series seems to play out like a 21stCentury reimagining of the cryptic small town setting and abject weirdness of Twin Peaks, but turns out being much darker than one could have imagined. The difference between something like Peaks and Lake is that Campion never shrouds the evil of humanity in a metaphorical evil spirit. She plays everything much closer to reality and the evil that Top of the Lake confronts is rape culture.  It’s pervasive, creeping and around every corner of the world these characters live in, and I’m not sure if a more poignant film came out this past year.

              2. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach): A film about Female friendship as platonic soul mates, economic frustrations, arrested development and dance all wrapped up in a nice French New Wave inspired package. This film lives and dies on the strength of Greta Gerwig and luckily she’s at a career best. It’s telling that so many people relate to Frances. I think in part it’s because she serves as a kind of mascot for the current generation of post-graduates who are trying to find their way in the world. Baumbach and Gerwig capture those feelings of plowing ahead through uncertainty perfectly. Although there should have been more dance. More dance in movies in 2014 please
              3. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine): I’m convinced Spring Breakers is a film of contradictions, and an endlessly fascinating one. Feminism exists within surface level male gaze, Terrence Malick’s ethereal templates are grafted onto Spring Break culture, Korine shows affection for his characters while simultaneously damning them. All these things together create something that is ridiculously compelling from a purely interpretational viewpoint, and when you add onto that the pop art aesthetic being baptized in the waters of Malick and Mann you have something truly unique.

              4. Drug War (Johnnie To): Johnnie To’s brand of film making has often been compared to Jazz at times (especially in the case of something like Sparrow, and rightfully so), but in Drug War it’s a little different and I’m more prone to compare his work in action to thrash metal. The way everything is so tightly constructed, the way the action viscerally moves from one scene to the next without losing the rhythm of the movement. It’s anything but rigid, and like thrash metal it moves over you like a machine and pummels everything in it’s way.
              5.  Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen): It’s not entirely difficult to make the claim that this is the Coen’s Ulysses to their Odysseus (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Filled to the brim with the kind of darkly comic tragedy we’ve come to expect from them and punctuated by an incredible soundtrack. I still have Please Mr. Kennedy stuck in my head. Someone please send help.
              6. The Unspeakable Act (Dan Sallitt): A film dedicated to Rohmer that echoes his influence on cinema. The way Sallitt has a control of the rhythm of dialogue calls upon the late director’s work and the transgressive look at incestual desire always feels respected and not presented as taboo. It’s just a facet of this young girls blossoming sexuality. Tallie Medel is astounding and the therapy sessions are something of a marvel in the way he makes sitting and talking feel vibrant and alive.
              7. White Reindeer (Zach Clark): For a little while White Reindeer held the top spot on my year end list, and I still love it deeply. Zach Clark’s picture absolutely floored me when I watched it earlier this year, and captures spiraling depression in a really human and loving way. Anna Margaret Hollyman also gives the best performance I’ve seen all year. The film is really funny too.

              8. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosada): Making me cry is a common theme of the films I tend to fall in love with and it was no different this year. Wolf Children left me in a pool of tears. The melodrama is incredible and the single parent-motherhood narrative mixed with it’s identity politics really hit close to home.
              9. Bastards (Claire Denis): There is something deliriously evil about this film. Claire Denis and Agnes Godard’s collaborations have never been this bleak and pessimistic. Every ounce of her usual sensual-bodies in motion- style is demonized and repurposed to chill instead of sensualize. Like my #1 of the year Top of the Lake it takes you down the rabbit hole of a pervasive culture and like that film as well it’s horrifying to find out what lies at the center.

              10. Lesson of the Evil (Takashi Miike): This may very well be the most nihilistic film of the lot, but I can’t help but fall in love with Miike’s craft, the colours he uses and the black comedy inherent within slasher films to once again show everyone who the best in the world is at making horror films. (This might have been undistributed. It had a NY festival date so I’m counting it)

              The other films I loved this year
              11. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
              12. Fast & Furious Six (Justin Lin)
              13. The Punk Singer (Sini Anderson)
              14. Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
              15. Viola (Matías Piñeiro) 

              16. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
              17. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
              18. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
              19. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
              20. The Heat (Paul Feig)
              21. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
              22. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar Wai)
              23. Leviathan (Lucien Casting-Taylor, Verena Paravel)
              24. Frozen (Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck)
              25. The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

              Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Pain & Gain)
              Anna Margaret Hollyman (White Reindeer)
              Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
              Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
              Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
              Suzanne Clement (Laurence Anyways)
              Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
              Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
              James Franco (Spring Breakers)
              Zhang Zyi (The Grandmaster)
              Simon Pegg (The World’s End)
              Amy Acker (Much Ado About Nothing)
              Nick Frost (The World’s End)
              Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
              Sun Honglei (Drug War)
              Emma Watson (The Bling Ring)
              Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis)
              Adepero Oduye (12 Years a Slave)
              Mattew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street)
              Melissa McCarthy (The Heat)

              *I would have liked to have written something about their performances, but I quickly realized that is not my forte and it would have quickly devolved into cliche acting buzzwords so I’ll spare you all from that.

              Best Direction: Johnnie To: Drug War
              Runner Up: Claire Denis: Bastards

              Best Cinematography: Benoit Debie: Spring Breakers
              Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki: To the Wonder

              Best Screenplay: Dan Sallitt: The Unspeakable Act
              Runner Up: Joel and Ethan Coen: Inside Llewyn Davis

              Best Usage of Music (this means ALL music): Laurence Anyways
              Runner Up: Inside Llewyn Davis/Bastards/Spring Breakers

              Best Undistributed Film: Blind Detective (Johnnie To) *Sammi Cheng gives maybe my favourite performance of the year as well. Here is hoping it gets a 2014 release

              Most Quotable Movie: Frances Ha (Ahoy, Sexy! Frances Undateable)
              Runner Up: The World’s End (Oh, Fuck Off! You Big Lamp! Smashy Smashy Eggman)

              In closing I just want to say I had a great year, and each year in cinema always opens itself up to more viewings and reworking your favourites over the years. Life through cinema is a never ending journey and this post is only a checkpoint, a timestamp of my opinion at this moment, because I still have so much more to see and to discover and I can’t wait to find out. I know 2014 will bring just as many riches.