"WALL-E isn’t the only dystopic animated feature to tackle humankind’s destruction of the planet. Forty-seven years before Pixar’s social critique, there was brothers Max and Dave Fleischer’s Hoppity Goes to Town (1941), a Capra-esque tale of a young, idealistic grasshopper, Hoppity, who must not only confront the scheming, lecherous C. Bagley Beetle, but also save his bug community from the ever-expanding populace of Manhattan."
"Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life feels closer to a suburban monster movie than to any conventional melodrama from the period. Even James Mason, who plays the grade-school teacher secretly moonlighting as a cabbie, undergoes stark physical, psychological and emotional changes that seem an uncanny parallel to the sci-fi mutation films that proliferated during the era. But instead of Godzilla rising from the ashes of nuclear destruction, Ray gives us Mason, your prototypical 1950s white-collar dad, who is collapsing under the strains of meeting the status quo."
Ten cinematic spectacles that either can’t be replicated in the comfort of your own home, or wouldn’t be the same on DVD. Netflix, eat your heart out.
Mysterious Objects: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Anthology, January) Two sold-out shorts programs were the real gems: minimalist manipulations of sound and space, and his characteristic interest in group aerobics.
Le Grand Franju (Anthology, March) Georges Franju’s career may be reduced to Eyes Without a Face, but this series reminded us of all the hallucinatory hybrids that we’re missing out on, like the biker-youth-over-the-cuckoo’s-nest Head Against the Wall.
Tomu Uchida (BAM, April) As a colleague wrote elsewhere: “Uchida's career is a jumble of high and low concerns, bright spectacle and dark corners, his responsive, protean style answering only to the needs of the moment — the stuff dreams are made of.”
Nakadai (Film Forum, June-July) 25 movies in almost as many days, plus an intimate conversation with the legendary dude himself? It’s like taking a graduate seminar in Tatsuya Nakadai without the bothersome homework.
3epkano (BAM/Walter Reade, July) For two nights this summer, two of silent cinema’s best films (F.W. Muruanu’s Sunrise and Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary) were not only revived but reborn through this Dublin experimental rock group’s eerily hypnotic scores.
Elliott Gould: Star for an Uptight Age (BAM, August) This reluctant role model is just as vital today as he was back in the day. And he brought along his personal 35mm print of Ingmar Bergman’s criminally neglected The Touch.
Hollywood on the Hudson (MoMA, September-October) The forgotten glory of New York filmmaking between the World Wars. Oh, the joys of obscure musicals and ethnic productions… Carole Lombard (Film Forum, November) This flaxen goddess already saw the country through one economic depression, so what’s one more?
Les Blank (Film Forum, November) The documentary guru of Americana is an underappreciated treasure, and his unique focus on food and music makes every screening a party. Manny Farber (Walter Reade, November) Extolling the unpretentious virtues of B-Movies long before it was hip to do so, the late Farber elevated film criticism to a high plateau that has rarely been surpassed.
Special mention goes out to the Orphan Film Symposium (NYU) for unearthing the strange, natural beauty of James Blue’s Kennedy-sponsored propaganda, and Lana Turner grilling a streak on live radio for WWII troops overseas, a true fetishist’s delight.
"[Preston] Sturges somehow channeled the pandemonium of the Marx Brothers into a sedate, middle class milieu, and unearthed an encyclopedia of white-collar hypocrisy, idiosyncrasy, and hilarity. Small towns and big cities, ocean liners and offices—none of them are safe from Sturges’ apocalypse. Only those that jettison their safe, conveniently ways and embrace the chaos are able to come out on top..."
"Among the most anticipated DVD releases of the year by cinephiles, Murnau, Borzage and Fox is to be admired for its daring and thorough offering of no less than twelve feature films, two “reconstructions” of lost films, two coffee table-sized books and one documentary, all housed within a ridiculously handsome faux-leather case. One can’t accuse Fox of going only halfway with this release; as with their comprehensive Ford at Fox box set released this time last year, Murnau, Borzage and Fox digs deep into the archives and comes up with a wealth of highly desired films. Truly a monumental release, this box set not only satiates the ravenous appetites of classic film lovers, it also opens up new critical and historical discourses that were, up to now, impossible because of restricted access to prints..."
"The visceral joys of the silent B-Western are on full display in Just Tony. Saloon brawls, wild stallions, ten-gallon hats, breathtaking desert ranges, gunfights, fistfights, races, chases—and even a love story to boot. For a 66-minute feature, there’s an incredible number of sub-plots working in conjunction with one another to make the movie all the more thrilling and tense. Each successive scene brings with it yet another complication... Always unpretentious, Just Tony shines in its ability to rework tried-and-true formulas into simple yet effective narratives brimming with charm."
"The centerpiece of the retrospective is The Wanderer (1967) an adaptation of Alain-Fournier’s novel Les Gran Meaulnes. Like a rural fairy tale, the film begins with a young boy getting lost in the woods; like Alice, he ends up wandering through the proverbial “rabbit hole” and into a seemingly supernatural world of enchantment... Outdoing even himself, Quinto Albicocco's cinematography evokes the intoxicating beauty of the imagination through a pallet of smeared hues, shimmering lights, and wide-angle lenses that bend the image to his every whim."
"Regardless of how unconventional and experimental it is, more than anything Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Muthais a joy to watch. It certainly breaks new ground, but never at the expense of its sense of humor. Van Peebles never seems as though he is trying to be obscure for the sake of being so; rather, he made the movie the only way he could. Take no prisoners. Make no excuses. Just make the movie by whatever means necessary. Melvin Van Peebles’ conviction and determination is nothing short of inspirational."
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, Bright Lights Film Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Moving Image Source, Spinetingler, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review.