This list is very helpful for tax purposes, and may or may not to some degree illuminate the habits and predelictions of your film editor.
Caveats: Yes Netflix costs money, as more directly do video on demand, the iTunes movie store and DVD rentals and purchases, but I’m already testing the limits of your interest and my patience/memory, so this list will be restricted to tickets bought and theaters sat in.
Confessions: Man, this list is embarrassingly free of most of the year’s major retrospectives.
In rough chronological order:
Bigger Than Life (Nic Ray, 1956) At the January one-off revival, rather than the victory lap during Film Forum’s Ray series. It was pretty much downhill from here, in retrospect.
The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1993) Lush, textured memories of an urban boyhood; so enveloping that I’d need a second viewing to tease out the formal sophistication.
Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh) The second of three times in the space of twelve months, actually, and the only time I paid (NYFF ’08 presser; friend’s DVD). FACT: There is not a single life situation to which a quote from Happy-Go-Lucky cannot be applied.
Made in U.S.A. (Godard, 1966) Godard’s tough.
Of Time and the City (Davies) I hate to pitch my tent in Camp Yes But Don’t Say That Out Loud, but a lot of smart critics, our own included, gave people permission to ignore this, as if wrangling with a frustrating, minor Davies work wasn’t more rewarding than nodding along to almost every other documentary released this year.
Wild Boys of the Road and Heroes for Sale (both William Wellman, 1933) Wellman, like Ed Herrmann in Intolerable Cruelty, “likes trains!” The former, about runaway kids riding the rails, is a tearjerker with some messianic NRA message-mongering at the end, but mostly a quite strong semi-documentary immersion in hobo textures—moreso than the more socially ambitious adult fare of the latter, aside from its one major iconic image. At their best, both films but especially Wild Boys are as terse about hand-to-mouth living and the unadorned corners of Depression-era America as Edward Anderson’s Hungry Men.
The International (Tom Tykwer) “There’s got to be some way to bring down this bank!” Ironically mercenary international coproduction, with at least some nice everything’s-connected direction from Tykwer (who does well at that sorta thing) and a nice Gugg shootout. Perfectly guiltless pleasure.
Dillinger Is Dead (Marco Ferreri) Along with the long-unavailable, canonical Bigger Than Life, the L’s favorite old movie of 2009; Criterion Collection DVDs of both films are forthcoming in March. (This one with a booklet essay by the L’s Michael Rowin!) Sly, disinterested Pop-Art decadence, and a better take on the Bourgeois Bohemian than a million David Brookses.
Frontier of Dawn (Phillippe Garrel) and La belle personne (Christophe Honoré) The theatrical runs at BAM’s IFC Films series were a fun pairing: Garrel’s somber, almost devout romanticism, and Honoré’s charmingly glib New Wave voguing.
ORdet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955) One of the problems of this job is that it’s hard to go into world-historical masterpieces with no foreknowledge of the plot.
Vampyr (Dreyer, 1932) Jungian shadowplay. If David Lynch has never seen it it’s only because he already has. Seen at a gratifyingly overflowed closing-night screening of BAM’s series.
The MacKintosh Man (John Huston, 1973) The one part of BAM’s well-curated Paul Newman tribute I caught. Airport bookstore thriller, too slack to be as preposterous as it ought to, but some really nice grainy overcast 70s lighting in an outdoor British chase scene.
The Stalking Moon (Robert Mulligan, 1968)
Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Boy (Nagisa Oshima, 1969) A favorite, and one whose reputation seems to have benefitted from recent Oshima retros. The most formally corrosive director of his generation directs his violence at the postwar family, making genuinely harrowing condemnation out of stacked-deck abused-kid melodrama. People who like Precious should be forced to watch Boy, with needles under their eyes like in Argento’s Opera if necessary.
Violence at Noon (Oshima, 1966) Wish I remembered this one better. Sorta like Vengeance is Mine: The Montage, which is bracing to watch and difficult to retain.
The Man Who Left His Will on Film (Oshima, 1970)
Leon Morin, Priest (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1961) Weirdly, a Catholic version of that SNL skit “Mel Gibson, Dream Gynecologist”, with young widows panting to make their confessions to hot clergyman Jean-Paul Belmondo. Unique.
The Limits of Control (Jarmusch)
Audience of One (Mike Jacobs) Reading reviews, you really think all the best bits have already been given away. They haven’t. Like The Burden of Dreams, starring the leader of your scout troop.
Star Trek (JJ Abrams) What? This is what happens when I don’t have work to get done on weekends. I should join an indoor soccer league or something.
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson) A cult DVD of tomorrow, mostly thanks to Rachel Weisz. “I think you’re constipated. In your fucking soul.”
Ivan’s Childhood (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962) Whatever. The camera is god. Subtitled Kubrick for film students who know how to read.
Moon (Zowie Bowie) Could have used more Sam Rockwell.
Public Enemies (Mann) I love Mann’s nocturnal digital collage, but a period movie in daylight, when shot on digital video, just makes your actors look like they’re in a high school play. Especially Billy Crudup. Good year for Stephen Lang though, between this and Avatar and Men Who Stare at Goats. Those eyes!
You, the Living (Roy Andersson) We need the eggs.
Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes) Wait, what? My girlfriend must have been out of town or something.
The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 1937) Semisoused anarchic bliss; McCarey makes Hawks look like Capra. The ideal screwball comedy of remarriage would be directed by Animal from the Muppets.
Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino)
Ponyo (Miyazaki) A kids movie, which means one founded explicitly rather than implicitly on the blithe credulity a Miyazaki movie requires. Loopy, charming, catchy like a tape your parents finally “lost.”
A Serious Man (Coens)
Bright Star (Campion) Hushed, lush, rapturous, well acted especially by Paul Schneider, actually pretty sexy in its entirely chaste way; a largely successful cinematic approximation of the Romantic ethos.
The Errand Boy (Jerry Lewis, 1961)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Anderson)
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Herzog) I might have enjoyed this more as a comedy if I hadn’t known going in that it was going to be a comedy.
Me and Orson Welles (Linklater) Rowin‘s right that expecting us to take Zac Efron’s side over Orson Welles kinda sours the buzz, but what a buzz anyway. Zoe Kazan rocks it to the moon, and I wish that the teenage me had received romantic advice from Joseph Cotten, who just seems like a really neat dude.
Armored (Nimrod Antal)