Increasingly, our mainstream cinema seems consumed with the act of storytelling itself. We can add American Animals to a list that already includes recent films as different as I, Tonya and Bisbee ‘17. This inward turn is nothing new for the avant-garde and the art-house, long characterized, from Bergman to Godard to Kiarostami, by the foregrounding of artifice.
We can plot the Great Movies You’re Supposed To Have Seen Canon on a grid, something like the omnipresent Political Compass. One axis is fast vs slow, and the other is positivity-oriented and optimistic vs. mopey depress-os.
A lot of the mutual lack of understanding that sometimes happens when I talk to my fellow film dorks online comes from the oddities of my personal artistic history that have left me to mostly enjoy the slow depress-o corner of the canon map, that corner which has become for many people about as pleasant a place to visit as the dentist’s.
It’s awards season, and there’s no shortage of commentary. I might chime in myself in a few weeks. (Spoilers: Boyhood, Ida, The Immigrant, Under The Skin, and Noah would win all the things if it were up to me, and Uma Thurman would get a best Supporting Actress nod for Nymphomaniac Vol 1 — it is not, it turns out, up to me.)
But I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight some of the best movies I saw this year which won’t be winning awards, primarily because some of them are from nearly 100 years ago.