Our 2015 Canon

Our 2015 Canon

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This time we do our 2015 Canon! We do it fantasy sports draft style, taking turns picking each movie. Then we veto some other people’s picks! And we also get very very confused about order due to a mistake Basil made, which makes for great great podcasting! Confused logistical discussion! We also leave in the pre-podcast preamble that we’re supposed to cut out. All in all a very well done episode.

These early episodes are not available on Apple Podcasts anymore, so I’ve taken the liberty for anyone who wants to listen of making sure the archive.org links still work. You can listen right here on the website or download the MP3 below.

Download The Episode Here!

Original Release Date: October 5th, 2015

#64: Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001, Alfonso Cuaron)

I have certain friends who I do not mind watching very sexually explicit material with. In fact, watching this with one of these friends recently made me aware just how nice the unspoken mood of mutual arousal over a piece of media can be. Y Tu Mama Tambien is sexy. It's also funny, sad, and political in a very subtle way. All of these elements feel real. There is no melodrama to the proceedings. The small tragedies, like two friends losing each other over the course of a lifetime, feel even more sad in a way than the larger tragedies of dying of cancer or leaving a spouse. The tragedies fuel the sensuality of the encounters between the characters. Their sex feels desperate and life-affirming and honest in a way that doesn't come off as gauche. It also feels like in those moments the power structure is truly reversed between the male and female characters. As much as they may try, the boys are not the sexual masters they claim to be, and in every instance, a woman gets the better of them between the sheets. (Patrick Williams)

#63: Somewhere (2010, Sofia Coppola)

Somewhere feels like penance for Lost in Translation. While the two films share enough elements to draw a comparison (lonely actor looking for a connection, spends some time in a foreign country), they couldn't be more different aesthetically and thematically. Where Lost is dramatic, Somewhere is soft spoken. Where Lost is world weary, Somewhere is exploratory. WhereLost is broad, Somewhere is detailed. Where Lost is culturally insensitive, Somewhere pokes fun at an American lack of understanding of others. Lost can be smug and nihilistic but still attempts to achieve transcendence. Somewhere is humble and happy to be grounded and of the moment. (Reuben Clay)

#62: In a Lonely Place (1950, Nicholas Ray)

In many ways the apex of Nicholas Ray’s ambivalent analysis of post-war male masculinity.  Bogart plays a variation of the character he always plays -- tough talking, quick with his fists, always ready with a sour one-liner -- but Ray exposes the weakness, the vanity, the desperation of that persona.  The men who went to war and came back are not beautiful, upright defenders of American patriotic values, but are fractured male psyches unable to fit back into the world they once knew. (Basil Soares)

#61: Videodrome (1983, David Cronenberg)

It's kind of disheartening to look back at how many 1980’s sci-fi movies ended up becoming prescient at least on a thematic level to actual life in the 2010’s. Videodrome predicted, if not the exact method, at least the idea of people becoming agents of the media they consume. There was an article written by a journalist called something like “How I Lost My Father To Fox News” and thinking about that idea, “losing” someone to a news channel, I keep coming back to James Woods being programmed by his television to seek out and kill people after watching a pirate broadcast. The idea that we become the means by which the message is forced upon the rest of our world is so relevant to everything in 2015 mostly because the amount of and ease of consumption of media is so prevalent in today's world. But prescience alone is not enough for me, so that's where the cool visceral body horror elements fit in. They are still able to make an audience squirm but just fun enough to not be too stomach churning. Cronenberg walks the line between gross and fascinating like no other filmmaker and Videodrome takes that speciality and combines it with both his extreme sexual fascinations and a fondness for camp. Where else can you see someone get their hand ripped off, get blasted through a wall, and then have someone say “See you in Pittsburgh” as a kiss off? (Patrick Williams)

#60: Duel to the Death (1983, Ching Siu-Ting)

A complex allegory about the tensions between national, regional, and familial loyalties tucked underneath outrageous martial arts choreography and gorgeous impressionistic cinematography. (Basil Soares)

#59: The Parallax View (1974, Alan J, Pakula)

Infectiously paranoid, hilariously self-aware and irresistibly well-shot. Seldom have I felt such a palpable sense of anxiety and at the same time felt such admiration for how anxious I was being made to feel. The brainwashing sequence feels like Pakula channeling Kubrick at his funniest and most frightening. (Ilya Grigorev)

#58: How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989, Bruce Robinson)

One of the rare convergences of an outstanding acting talent (Richard E. Grant) with a writer and director who knows his strengths and when to really turn him loose. Where Withnail and I merely hinted at these talents HTGAIA really allows Grant to dip into the weirdness of the character and story. Even though he pretty much starts and ends up a complete heel, he manages to imbue him with pathos and gain empathy for a man being swallowed by his own nihilistic subconscious. Surface level, it’s a movie about a man being replaced by his zit. Underneath, it’s a parable about how capitalism is a perfect incubator for sociopathy. (Patrick Williams)

#57: Carefree (1938, Mark Sandrich)

Discussed on podcast. (Reuben Clay)

#56: Shortbus (2006, John Cameron Mitchell)

Discussed on podcast. (Patrick Williams)

#55: L’avventura (1960, Michelangelo Antonioni)

The bleakest indictment of post-war modernism I have ever seen.  From a post-apocalyptic island to enormous empty towns of bland identical architecture, Antonioni offers a vision of humanity’s impending decay, lamenting how little we miss the past or even notice its absence once it’s gone. (Basil Soares)

#54: Morvern Callar (2002, Lynne Ramsay)

The titular Morvern’s feelings about the suicide of her boyfriend that opens the film are never made explicit. The film keeps its audience at a distance from ever truly knowing its protagonist’s intentions or goals. While this has been the subject of much debate among film critics, I think, like Certified Copy, the motivations, connections, and relationships are not as important as how the film presents them. Our inability to access Morvern mirrors her inability to access her boyfriend before he killed himself, and in general, the difficulty people have in understanding each other. (Reuben Clay)

#53: Total Recall (1990, Paul Verhoeven)

Discussed on podcast. (Ilya Grigorev)

#52: Strange Days (1995, Kathryn Bigelow)

Discussed on podcast. (Reuben Clay)

#51: Point Break (1991, Kathryn Bigelow)

A work of almost pure formalism.  Bigelow takes a classic story linking cops and criminals (this time seeing them as two sides of the same thrill-seeking coin) and fuses it with post-MTV imagistic abstraction.  Waves cut through compositions, the camera glides up and down through the ocean current, often losing itself in the swirl of bubbles and undertow.  Over the last thirty plus years the action film has dominated Hollywood cinema, but I don’t think any I’ve seen (except, perhaps, <i>Speed Racer</i>) comes close in terms of raw cinematic beauty. (Basil Soares)

#50: My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997, P.J. Hogan)

A self-aware genre piece that both pokes fun at and embraces what is goofy, joyous, and ridiculous about the romantic comedy genre.  And all of it rests on Julia Roberts’ shoulders.  I find analyzing acting difficult, but everything about her performance invites sympathy even as her character becomes more and more despicable in her narcissistic attempts to undermine the titular impending marriage.  This dichotomy works, in the same way that Stewart’s nice guy persona rubs uneasily against his creepy behavior in Rear Window and some of his work with Anthony Mann.  I would rank Roberts in this film alongside my favorite performances of all time. (Basil Soares)

#49: Point Blank (1967, John Boorman)

A monument to genre editing and construction.  The first twenty minutes represent everything I would want from an action film, in terms of editing.  A free-flowing pastiche that dips between the past and present, between memory and imagination, in ways that recall Alain Resnais.  The combination of bizarre sound editing and this lack of fidelity to conventional narrative structure make me wish the action genre had become even more avant garde in the 1970s, instead of beginning to move back towards high concept plots and excessively worked over narratives.  Point Blank is sleek and unsettling in its streamlined revenge narrative. (Basil Soares)

#48: Bring It On (2000, Peyton Reed)

Discussed on podcast. (Ilya Grigorev)

#47: Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee)

While most biopics are satisfied with a simple greatest hits retelling of the focus’ life, usually beginning at their birth or on their rise to celebrity and ending with their death (or the death of their celebrity), Spike Lee not only offers more of Malcolm X’s life than that but more than a simple biopic. While Lee does honor (and critique) el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, this is the story of how a man becomes a man even more than that. The film’s first two acts are almost entirely reactive, “Red”/Malcolm live their life for or against the teachings of present or absent father figures. It is only in the final act (the act which is the most “realistically” shot and edited) that he discovers his own core beliefs. (Reuben Clay)

#46: Pale Flower (1964, Shinoda Masahiro)

Style will get a movie a lot of points in my book. Not just the look but the way the characters carry themselves and the way the editing, sound design, and music informs what is being shown on screen. For me there is not a better example of how to do style right than Pale Flower. It is blocked, shot and edited perfectly. Ryo Ikebe and Mariko Kaga emanate the cool detachment of Shinoda's style in their performances. If these superficial elements were all that Pale Flower offered it would be a good movie, but it also offers a twist on typical noir story structure. The normally complex plot line has been simplified and exchanged for what can only be described as “shooting the shit” with the characters. So often I feel like movies are in a big damn hurry to shuttle the characters from place to place to make more of the story happen, but Pale Flower takes its time. It lets us hang out with these cool motherfuckers and watch them do cool motherfucker things. It's also nice that they can say so little with their mouths and give so much information with their actions. While the story is simplified, the characters have a deep well of complex emotions. (Patrick Williams)

#45: Ten (2002, Abbas Kiarostami)

There's always a sense of privilege with storytelling, getting to witness and/or relive exciting, entertaining, dramatic, funny or horrific events from the perspective of the storyteller. Rarely does that privilege simply mean we get to sit in a car with the protagonist while she drives around town all day. In Ten, Kiarostami expertly utilizes the confined frame of the car, one of the few "private" spaces for Mania Akbari's character, the space that she gets to define and behave in with some measure of independence (although the mother/son dynamic hints at how fragile even that space is). As usual, questions of documentary vs. fiction are made absurd, as we witness events Akbari might be in some way privileged to take part in, but we are certainly privileged to witness, regardless how for real or staged they were.

#44: The Return of the Living Dead (1985, Dan O’Bannon)

Discussed on podcast. (Patrick Williams)

#43: Another Year (2010, Mike Leigh)

Another Year is a film that, if we lived in another society, might not deserve as much praise as I will give it. For what it does is simply make a film about older people without radically altering that life to market the film. This film should be the norm, not the exception, yet year after year, the majority of films about older people are about them recapturing some sort of youth or passion that has passed them by. in essence avoiding their relative closeness to death. Another Year is much more tactless, in the best way possible, allowing for a more realistic and more humane look at people for whom another year is just that. (Reuben Clay)

#42: How to Survive a Plague (2012, David France)

There are portions of United States history that can best be described as “Inglorious.” The period where people were dying in larger numbers from the incurable AIDS epidemic while our government was pretending that it wasn't a problem has to be one of the most awful. The way that the rallying cry “Act up! Fight back! Fight AIDS!” becomes more and more heart wrenching as the film goes on really stuck with me. Usually I find documentaries withholding really important information to create drama to be cheap, but here it feels absolutely necessary. (Patrick Williams)

#41: All the World’s Memory (1956, Alain Resnais)

A funnier and more unsettling portrait of a claustrophobic dystopia than Terry Gilliam's Brazil.  Resnais uses a constantly roving camera to turn something as classical and familiar as a library into an alien prison world where humanity traps all of its ideas to keep order and civilization intact.  Resnais highlights the absurd dichotomy between a people obsessed with recording all of their memories and then storing them away, most of them never to be looked at or heard again.  The film seems even more prescient now, as the internet continues its work in replacing libraries, becoming a bottomless chasm of forgotten information.  (Basil Soares)

#40: Casino Royale (2006, Martin Campbell)

Coming Soon! (Ilya Grigorev)

#39: 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)

“I want to include everything: Sports, Politics, even groceries. Everything should be put into a film”.

This is an excerpt from a promotional poster for the film.

“HER, the cruelty of neo-capitalism

HER, prostitution

HER, the Paris region

HER, the bathroom that 70% of the French don't have

HER, the terrible law of huge building complexes

HER, the physical side of love

HER, the life of today

HER, the war in Vietnam

HER, the modern call-girl

HER, the death of modern beauty

HER, the circulation of ideas

HER, the gestapo of structures.”

What does this all mean? Who can really say. Sometimes I genuinely don't care what a film is trying to say, the way it says it is enough for me.

Sometimes a film is like music, and one can't explain it by simply describing its specific parts. It has to be experienced as a whole to provide the necessary effect. Sometimes it's similar to an album cycle of music that really takes its time. I like letting films wash over me sometimes instead of actively engaging in story, but it really helps if the person making them has a great sense of humor and I think Jean Luc Godard has one of the best senses of humor. (Patrick Williams)

#38: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, Amy Heckerling)

Heckerling’s first feature offers a remarkably quotidian take on the ‘80s teen comedy.  Stories end without a strong sense of resolution, hinted at romances never come to fruition, and the film takes a non-judgmental, non-hysterical look at abortion that would be tough to imagine a Hollywood film going through with today (last year’s Obvious Child comes close, but it’s the only one I can think of).  The film also has the strength to treat all its characters with compassion, understanding that just because teenagers are awkward, confused, and irresponsible doesn’t make them bad people.  I wish this had been the formula picked up by later filmmakers, instead of the one that often pits the selfish villainous teenagers against the sweet natured good ones. (Basil Soares)

#37: The King of Comedy (1983, Martin Scorsese)

The most accurate portrayal of celebrity worship taken to its logical conclusion ("King for a day") and De Niro's most accomplished and layered performance. But the genius of this, my favorite of all Scorsese pictures, is that Rupert Pupkin embodies all the character traits we associate with "winners" - he works his ass off, he never gives up, he is fearless and he believes in himself when no one else does - they just so happen to apply just as well to sociopaths and stalkers. (Ilya Grigorev)

#36: Face/Off (1997, John Woo)

Beyond being the most representative (and best) of the late 90's Hollywood brand of peak excess blockbusters, Face/Off's titular scene and the ensuing ridiculousness acts as a knowing metaphor on the self-obsessed manipulative power of Hollywood acting. (Ilya Grigorev)

#35: Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)

When I was young, I saw this film on TV, and I wanted to watch it. My dad was about to go to a basketball game, and he wanted me to go with him, but I wanted to stay and watch the movie. So he let me. I watched the chest-burster scene right before he left, and I sat watching it for a little bit after he walked out the door. Then for some reason I didn't want to stay. Something about staying and watching this felt very wrong. I ran out the door to try and catch him before he left, but he was already driving away. I remember running down the road screaming for him to come back, but he never saw me. I went back, locked my door and ran over to my grandparents house for a while. I remember being back home in time to see the ending of the film and the feeling of the movie that stuck with me afterward was the crazy detail that Ripley would have to be in space alone for months with no human contact (I missed the bit about hypersleep for some reason). I always associate this film with that weird detachment and abandonment I felt that night. Watching it now though, I recognize it as one of those weird convergences of different trends and upward trajectories of several different artists (Scott, the cast, O'Bannon, and Giger namely) all clicking at once and at just the right moment for the film to be commercial and critical success. It's also an example of how all of the great touches in a film can come from everyone being very creative and very good at their jobs. (Patrick Williams)

#34: Clueless (1995, Amy Heckerling)

Coming Soon! (Ilya Grigorev)

#33: The Meaning of Life (1983, Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam)

Discussed on podcast. (Patrick Williams)

#32: The Cabin in the Woods (2011, Drew Goddard)

“We can all agree that we like this, but when you step back and look at it for a second -- isn’t it super weird that we do?”  This question is at the heart of much of what I love about postmodernism.  A chance to be self-reflexive, but not just for the sake of cleverness and make the audience feel hip and smart and with-it for “getting” “the joke.”  A chance to stand back and examine why these cultural touchstones have become cultural touchstones, and to make the audience question the joy they usually take as a given.  This film bleakly asks what we gain and lose by taking such relish in violently punishing our youth on screen.  And it has the laugh-out-loud funniest title card appearance I have ever seen. (Basil Soares)

#31: Rumble in the Bronx (1995, Stanley Tong)

Discussed on podcast. (Ilya Grigorev)

#30: Fireworks (1947, Kenneth Anger)

Discussed on podcast. (Basil Soares)

#29: Moolaade (2004, Sembene Ousmane) 

The idea of women’s power, especially in groups, is a theme that runs through Sembene’s film. Here it achieves perhaps its most resonant presentation as one group of women attempting to protect their daughters from purification (a ritual female circumcision) squares off against another as well as the elders in this town. The struggle of retaining one’s culture in a world currently designed to homogenize is a difficult one, and Sembene tackles it here with perhaps the most controversial topic. (Reuben Clay)

#28: The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)

At the core of this film is the idea that repression breeds a variety of fucked up instincts in the human brain. It was probably too scandalous in 1955 to suggest that living the “pure” life of a preacher might cause someone to gestate horrible impulses, yet now we are sure that repression is responsible for all manner of terrible psychological conditions. This kind of paradox, the idea that living so clean that you fuck yourself up inside plays against scenes in a film that are visually beautiful and thematically horrifying. Shelley Winters with her hair flowing in the current still strapped into her car at the bottom of the lake looks gorgeous, but she's just been strangled and dumped there by a man who wants her money. The murder itself pulls the audience out of real space and into a kind of “twilight zone” cross-section of a room with darkness at the edges. Robert Mitchum's preacher, with “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles winking at his audiences with his smile never quite reaching his eyes, is the embodiment of it all. Darkness shrouded by the bright light of a fiery sermon and the social veil of religion. When the veil is lifted and he gets railroaded to his death by the townspeople, we again see another instance of darkness hiding in the hearts of people. All the ones who were so happy to listen to the preacher's message and praise Jesus are now so thirsty for his blood. (Patrick Williams)

#27: My Winnipeg (2007, Guy Maddin)

The funniest film I have seen in years.  Maddin’s narration, which alternates between dry, bored-sounding ruminations and strange vindictive hysteria, compliments his usual mish-mash of 1920s and 1930s filmic effects.  His sad, often openly Oedipal reflections on his childhood constantly verge on solipsism but the weaving in of mean-spirited historical anecdotes (many of them almost certainly false) about his hometown, and the often perfectly worded jokes that make up his narration keep the film from ever falling into self-pity. (Basil Soares)

#26: Mermaids (1990, Richard Benjamin)

Who knew that such a seemingly poppy throwaway movie about a kooky dysfunctional family of women could also be so unexpectedly affecting, loving of its characters and well-acted. Also a much-needed infusion of female perspective and sexual agency to the coming-of-age genre. (Ilya Grigorev)

#25: Pakeezah (1972, Kamal Amrohi)

Discussed on podcast. (Reuben Clay)

#24: Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin)

Discussed on podcast. (Basil Soares)

#23: Josie and the Pussycats (2001, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont)

Perhaps the greatest satire of all time by not imbuing its satire with bite but a gentle and warm touch, that never sees its villains as anything but lost people, in true Freudian fashion, attempting to overcompensate for their childhood woes. But even more than that, this truly hilarious film has a deep and fruitful understanding of the music industry (and media consumption in general) that even touches on the continuing influences of racism (marginalization, erasure, and invisibility) in the media that receives the most attention. (Reuben Clay)

#22: Girl 6 (1996, Spike Lee)

Discussed on podcast. (Basil Soares)

#21: Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (1975, Shinoda Masahiro)

Discussing a film that has insanity as its subject matter and fully dedicates itself to that topic is no easy matter. Part of what works so well about this film is that I feel slightly unhinged while watching it. This is one of its strongest qualities though. I’m hypnotized into a world I have no understanding of until the film spits me out when it’s done with me. (Reuben Clay)

#20: The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928, Germaine Dulac)

Germaine Dulac creates a mesmerizing and dissonant series of images that, for me, achieved a similar effect as a magic show: I felt that a lack of knowledge was preferable to a dissection of everything that's going on. I will say that her commentary on the connection between men’s passion, jealousy, and violence is still sadly relevant today. (Reuben Clay)

#19: Werckmeister Harmoniak (2000, Bela Tarr)

A lot gets made about how this is a 2 ½ hour film with only 29 shots, but long shots are nothing but an empty technical achievement without the right blocking and thematic context. Tarr manages to make everything in this film look so simultaneously foreboding and gorgeous that the audience is struck by the mental disconnect of being drawn into the horror of its bleak world. Ostensibly this is a film about a breakdown in societal order, but as far as breakdowns go, this one is quelled relatively quietly by a sad naked man in a shower. To that end there seems to be hope of restoring humanity in Tarr's vision and the true breakdown only comes when greater powers attempt to swallow up the perceived chaos. Really, all the analysis in the world can be shoved aside though because the imagery and motion on screen is so fucking gorgeous. (Patrick Williams 

#18: Love Exposure (2008, Sono Sion)

The heart of Sono Sion’s films (at least of the ones that I’ve seen) is love. These films, however, are not of the treacly Hallmark variety but ones that challenge its viewers to retain their feelings about love as its perversions and flaws are splattered across the screen. For someone interested in the sociological side of things, there may not be a greater practitioner of how human impulse is shifted, changed, and upset by the society one lives in than Sono and Love Exposure is his masterpiece. (Reuben Clay)

#17: Taste of Cherry (1997, Abbas Kiarostami)

Taste of Cherry is an exceedingly beautiful film with no obvious recourse to its beauty. It consists mostly of barebones shots of conversations taking place in a car or a wide shot, showing the car driving. Yet I find myself drawn to these exceedingly simple shots again and again. In many ways, this feels like the answer Mr. Badii’s question, why live? There may be no film more “boringly realistic” in its composition than Taste of Cherry, yet even in that existentialism, we find something surprisingly resonant. (Reuben Clay)

#16: Broken Sky (2006, Julian Hernandez)

Does more in completely wordless shots than plenty of films do in complete scenes. Expresses emotions in a very theatrical but fitting way, treats the relationship as personal without it either feeling like it’s “exceptional” or a stand in for all gay relationships. (Reuben Clay)

#15: The World (2004, Jia Zhangke)

Honest communication is pretty much the cornerstone of humans as social animals, yet in our daily lives, this can often become a difficult goal. In The World, honest communication is thwarted on many fronts, from different languages, to different priorities, to those confused about their own feelings. Even the medium of film is slyly commented on if you see the somewhat tacky and artificial nature of world park as a representation of the aesthetic limitations of simulacrum (as I do). "See the world without ever leaving Beijing is the tagline," and that's not only unsettlingly sad but a reminder of what we film obsessives do every day, in a way. Explore "the world" in the comfort of our home or theater. (Reuben Clay)

#14: Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet)

Discussed on podcast. (Ilya Grigorev)

#13: The ‘Burbs (1989, Joe Dante)

Brilliantly funny, perfectly cast and somehow tender portrayal of suburban paranoia and chauvinism. The most Dante aspect of this movie (that I watched over a dozen times as a kid and had a profound impact on my dumb sense of humor) seems to be the desire to have one's own boring, everyday surroundings somehow live up to the horror, suspense, eroticism and adventure of even the trashiest of cinema experiences. (Ilya Grigorev)

#12: Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg)

With hindsight of viewing Jurassic World, I now realize how awesome this movie is. There is a scene where the characters berate the crazy patriarch about morality, there is a strong female lead who kicks ass, there is Jeff Goldblum at peak Jeff Goldblum, and a scene where someone threatens a child with disembowelment while swiping a dinosaur talon across his belly. If you don't like this movie, or if you think Jurassic World is a worthy successor, like, fuck you, dude. (Patrick Williams)

#11: (nostalgia) (1971, Hollis Frampton)

Discussed on podcast. (Basil Soares)

#10: The Last Days of Disco (1998, Whit Stillman)

Not sure if there's a movie that expresses its complete disinterest in historic accuracy more delightfully than Stillman's disco (not disco) movie classic. From its setting (the club most of it takes place in is just called The Club), to the dialogue, the hairstyles, the wardrobe and pretty much everything including the soundtrack, everything in this movie is either just evocative enough or hilariously at odds with the period that Stillman put in the title. But if it is true that the more specific the story you tell, the more people might want to identify themselves with it, Last Days Of Disco is proof that a certain type of artifice can make a movie feel more genuine. And so the stilted yuppie weirdos of this movie gradually become interesting, damaged, needy and forgiving people. That tension between artifice and realness is a topic that has run through disco as a genre, ever since music journalists have tried and failed to encapsulate everything disco is and isn't. How fitting then, that the movie to best express that tension is the one that on its surface appears to be everything it's not.

#9: Window Water Baby Moving (1962, Stan Brakhage)

While the film touches on the romantic and sentimental, as Brakhage cross cuts between his wife going into labor with scenes filmed earlier in her pregnancy, the collaborative spirit of the film alleviates any feeling of woman goddess objectification that the movie could easily dip into.  It’s romantic without ever feeling male gaze-y.  Instead by filming the event it gives Brakhage an active role in an event that men are often encouraged to witness passively, or not at all.  She is having a baby, but they are also making this movie. (Basil Soares)

#8: Xala (1975, Sembene Ousmane)

Sembene's film La Noire de... is an angry film. Xala has plenty of anger, but it's sarcastic and mischievous. He gives the audience scenes that crackle with caustic energy and bite hard at capitalist bureaucracy and traditional marriage practices in his home country of Senegal. He also takes jabs at people who use religion simply as a means to an end instead of actually practicing and understanding its tenets. He gives us a scene of men opening briefcases and smiling widely at each other as they stare at the contents, even though the audience never sees what is inside them. The greed and lechery expressed in each man's smile makes the audience uncomfortable even as they can't help but find the situation absurd. (Patrick Williams)

#7: Femme Fatale (2002, Brian De Palma)

Coming Soon! (Ilya Grigorev)

#6: Standard Operating Procedure (2008, Errol Morris)

On the surface Standard Operating Procedure is a documentary about one of the most enduring scandals from the Iraq war (the Abu Ghraib torture photographs), but Morris is canny enough not to examine scandal for its own sake. What he is really interested in is how the photographs show an incomplete picture of what really went on at Abu Ghraib. As is his custom, he also wants to examine who the “villains” in the case are and how they became so. His lens isn't looking to foment rage against them either. He wants them to look into his audience’s eyes and tell their story, because he is more interested in the grey area that exists between good and evil when lines become blurred by emotion and a hierarchy that may have uncouth ulterior motives for issue damning orders. (Patrick Williams)

#5: A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984, Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

Discussed on podcast. (Reuben Clay)

#4: Mirror (1975, Andrei Tarkovsky)

Coming Soon! (Ilya Grigorev)

#3: To Be Or Not To Be (1942, Ernst Lubitsch)

Coming Soon! (Ilya Grigorev)

#2: The Round-Up (1966, Miklos Jansco)

The moment I always use to discuss my love of this film comes somewhere near the middle.  A group of prisoners are led out each day to collect food that has been raised for them by the nearby women villagers.  This is their only source of sustenance, as the prison guards refuse to feed them.  One day two of the prisoners decide they can no longer take it and decide, now that they are out in the open, to make a run for it.  In a long single shot, the camera watches them sprint off into the distance, slowly receding from the camera’s view.  But the guards watching them casually mount their horses and ride after them.  The camera remains stationary.  Without cutting Jansco shows the guards catch up to the prisoners off in the distance and slowly walk them back into our view.  For all their laborious effort the prisoners end up exactly where they were.  It’s devastating. (Basil Soares)

#1 Tomatos Another Day (1930, James Sibley Watson)

Discussed on podcast. (Patrick Williams)

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