Tuesday, January 17


2005: a year of movies

A new year of cinephilia is truly underway. The film festivals and retrospectives have started, making frequent blog posts all the less likely. Two more film festivals just released their programs. The fourth, and so far, biggest SF Korean-American Film Festival runs February 7-12 and will include a special focus on North Korea, including a rare screening of a film made there in 1972, the Flower Girl. Also included are a number of recent films that look at North Korea through the lens of the South Korean film industry such as Oldboy director Park Chan-wook's first feature Joint Security Area, Shiri, and the way-better-than-Die Another Day spy film Double Agent. The SF IndieFest will run February 2-14, and brings a fistful of local, US and even world premieres. New films from Dario Argento and Takashi Miike stand out from a first perusal of the website.

I've been putting off doing this for a bit, perhaps because I'm still wrangling with whether to post a "Best New Films of 2005" list. But, in part inspired by recent pro-cinema discussion elsewhere, for now I'm just going to plunge in, ignore the "New Release" films I saw last year, and just list off my favorite moviegoing experiences of last year. No pontificating about whether it was overall a great year for this, or a horrible year for that, I'll just let the lists speak for themselves, and hope this year holds as many riches:

Top 10 "Movies Plus" of 2005:
1. Man With a Movie Camera with a live score by the indie rock band Oranger, as part of the Noise Pop Festival's evening at the Castro Theatre.
2. Bruce Conner discussing Crossroads and other films that played at SFMOMA's Phyllis Wattis Theatre.
3. Frank Borzage's Street Angel at the Palace of Fine Arts as part of the SFIFF, featuring live music from the re-united American Music Club and a trio of whistlers.
4. The silent version of Hitchcock's Blackmail at the same venue but with a score by the Alloy Orchestra.
5. A Matter of Life and Death and the interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff that followed it at the Rafael Film Center.
6. Apart From You paired with Ozu's the Lady and the Beard at the Pacific Film Archive, both with Michael Mortilla providing virtuoso piano accompaniment.
7. For Heaven's Sake, the Harold Lloyd comedy which opened the Silent Film Festival with Chris Elliot behind the Castro's Wurlitzer organ.
8. The Birds and Marnie on a Castro double bill with the super-classy Tippi Hedren interviewed in between.
9. Les Blank presenting Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers and Yum, Yum, Yum! in aromaround at the Green Screen Film Festival.
10. Pudovkin's short Chess Fever backed by a bizarre but somehow appropriate musical accompaniment from a guy with a paper bag over his head when it played before the Most Dangerous Game as part of the PFA's Games People Play series.

Top 10 New Discoveries (for me) of 2005:
1. One of my last unseen Orson Welles feature films: Confidential Report at the Pacific Film Archive.
2. I Am Cuba at the Balboa Theatre.
3. Hellzapoppin' at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
4. Joesph Losey's remake of M, which I found every bit as good as the original, at Noir City festival at the Balboa.
5. A restored version of Victor Seastrom's the Scarlet Letter as part of the PFA's Film Preservation Week. I remember very much liking Jon Mirsalis's piano score, so perhaps it really deserves to be on the "Movies Plus" list.
6. Footlight Parade, as part of the Castro's Busby Berkeley series.
7. The theatrical cut of Edvard Munch at the Oaks Theatre.
8. Borzage's A Farewell to Arms at the Balboa.
9. A short but absolutely fascinating "scientific film", Living in a Reversed World, a favorite of Amos Vogel's placed on the same program as Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 at the SFIFF.
10. Zabriskie Point at the Castro.

Top 10 Old Favorites "Rediscovered" in 2005:
1. A double-bill of Love Me Tonight and Design For Living was the highlight of an extremely high month of pre-code films at the Balboa last November.
2. In a Lonely Place was the greatest masterpiece I saw at last year's Noir City.
3. Seeing Singin' in the Rain on the Stanford screen made appreciate it more than I ever had before.
4. Rashomon was a special treat at the Red Vic.
5. Los Olvidados at the Balboa.
6. Rebel Without a Cause, also at the Balboa.
7. Harakiri, yet again at the Balboa during its Samurai! series.
8. It wasn't until I saw his name come up in the opening credits that I figured out the reasoning behind the Stanford Theatre's Franz Waxman-tribute double bill of Bride of Frankenstein and Sunset Blvd.
9. Bruce Conner's Cosmic Ray was another short film picked by the SFIFF to augment the Film as a Subversive Art screening, and it was wonderful to see again. I thought the freshly Oscar-nominated Taylor Hackford was an odd and perhaps misguidedly opportunistic selection for the Festival's Lifetime Achievement in Directing award and I still wonder if this selection wasn't a sly dig at that choice from another corner of the programming team.
10. After seeing a cut version on VHS in Thailand five years earlier, I was very glad the Four Star played Pen-ek Ratanaruang's crime comedy 6ixtynin9 for a week and that I finally got to see the version it was meant to be.

Special mention to the threatened Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where while on vacation I was thrilled to have an opportunity to see a favorite Anthony Mann Western, Winchester '73 (making it the last Shelley Winters film I saw before she died) in its beautiful space along with a new film for me, High Plains Drifter. I hope the Brattle is able to keep its screen flickering.

Not only an excellent set of lists, Brian, but inspiring as always. I think maybe I can hold myself to a more active standard if I started posting "coming at NYC theaters soon" rundowns like yours ...
You probably would, Zach. It used to be that I'd see a new rep. house calendar, get extremely excited, hopefully see the some of the films that got me the most excited, but invariably miss the majority of these.

Since I started this blog, I go through this process in public (however limited a public), and I notice that helps steel my resolve to make sure I see the films I'm so excited about. I probably saw more films in theatres in 2005 than ever.
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