“All movies are new if you’ve never seen them before.”
I don’t know who said that, or if I just made that up. But this year I really embraced that concept. I try my best to watch one movie a day. Sometimes it’s tough to find the time, but I feel being a student of cinema provides you with a better (and cheaper) education than any film school. That said, this year I tried to really seek out films. I kept a find list of films I was on the lookout for. I also kept a watch list of films I devoured. This list is not necessarily my “Best of 2016” – but it’s a list of the films I found myself thinking about the most. They were films that left some sort of a deeper impression on me. So, here goes, in no particular order (other than that in which I watched them throughout the year)…
Man With A Movie Camera
Director: Dziga Vertov
An amazing film. Russian. Very interesting shots. Holds your attention the entire time. Innovative. Fresh. Fucking amazing.
In The Basement
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Austrian documentary. Some people may see it as “disturbing”, I found it inspiring. I’m pretty sure there is zero camera movement but it is shot so beautifully. Someday I would like to shoot an entire film with zero camera movements. I really loved this film. A lot.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
Director: Todd Haynes
Where do I begin? Haynes is one of my favorite directors. The fact that this entire film is cast with Barbie dolls and uses music by the Carpenters – without clearance – is just soooooo inspiring. I’ve had an idea for a film involving a character with a severe eating disorder and it would be a real challenge to make it as engaging as this is.
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
I liked the use of nature as a central character in this film. It is beyond beautiful. I don’t remember much of the actual plot, but I kept thinking about shots that looked like masterful paintings.
Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Saw this three times in the theaters. Not because the story is mind bending, but just because we were on the road this summer and I loved how much of an escape this film felt. I loved the editing as well. Soundtrack was great. Love how youthful and modern this film feels. Really just a fun movie.
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Everyone says this is THE movie about movies, and I get it now. Italy. Amazing. Had to search a bit to find the director’s intended cut. There are so many versions of this around. I think I saw the “right” one. Either way, it was a really fun watch. On paper nothing about this film should work, but on the screen it becomes magic.
Wild In Blue
Director: Matthew Berkowitz
I like the vibe of this movie. The feel. The texture and the grit. I love the use of different formats (film/digital/video/etc). Just great. I like the spirit in which this film resides. In a world where so much shit is whitewashed, I just liked the filmmaker’s approach to this work.
A Clockwork Orange
Director: Stanley Kubrick
I remember seeing bits of this as a child. Most of the shit I experienced (film/music/television) as a child I hate now, so I avoided watching this for a long ass time. I’m so glad I finally sat down and watched it. So fucking amazing. Literally a perfect film.
The Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Was on the road when we saw this, drove about two hours to the nearest theater to see it on the big screen. So glad we did. Loved it. The color, the story, the music, everything. So fucking inspiring. Not in a “punch to the gut” sort of way, but in a “keep on going – someday you’ll get there” sort of way. Loved it.
Director: Rick Alverson
Been a Neil Hamburger fan for years. Had zero expectations with this. In many ways, this film is as beautifully shot as The Revenant, and with a more engaging story. Loved the open, expansive feeling of this film’s world. I probably relate to the lead character as well from traveling and doing shows for so long now. At times it was a bit too relatable. Either way, loved this one.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Went on a Refn kick and watched most of his films as well as several fun docs about him. This film was really amazing. Loved the acting. Loved the narrative. Loved the “don’t give a fuck” attitude of the entire film. Felt so tight, but so free and loose as well. I don’t know, everything about this film just really worked for me and I found this one to be really inspiring.
The Five Obstructions
Directors: Lars von Trier, Jørgen Leth
Lovvvvvved this documentary. Got on a Leth kick and watched most of his shit too. Really wanted to make an unauthorized sequel to his 66 Scenes From America film. But I also want people to watch my stuff, so I decided to make a more marketable film and maybe someday I’ll do something like 66 Pt. 2. It’s really enjoyable watching von Trier fuck with Leth and try to irritate him. Like, really enjoyable.
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Watched this and felt so inspired to be as weird and wild as I want to be. This entire film is like the best trip ever. Nothing makes complete sense, and that’s why it works. The editing is AMAZING. The acting is INCREDIBLE. The poster is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I really, really, really loved this film. Very inspiring. Very.
Director: George Cukor
Someday I want to do a big budget remake of this film. In the meantime, I’m incorporating elements of the “gaslighting” concept into a character in my upcoming film. This was a special movie because it was the first film we saw at the Trylon Microcinema and that was a great discovery this year. They screened this on 35mm and that made it all the better. Plus the place was so packed (it seats fifty), I had to sit on the floor and look up and over at the screen, which left me with back and neck pain for several days afterwards. Movies should make you hurt, dammit.
Director: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Watched this in 2015, re-watched again this year. Still love everything about this film. So brilliantly acted. Love all the crazy little details that are hidden throughout the film. Again, I just found myself thinking and being inspired by this movie.
Giuseppe Makes A Movie
Director: Adam Rifkin
One of the most inspiring films about making art ever. Just fucking do it! Don’t wait! Go, do, now! I love the aesthetic of this film, the look of Giuseppe’s works and his approach to working with cast and crew. The frantic nature of his style is super inspiring. There’s no excuse to not be creating films at all times.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Didn’t think I’d like this, ended up loving it. Poot is great. Her hair is great. Going to countless punk shows, traveling with freegan kids, being a hobo – usually this side of life isn’t well represented. It’s usually cleaned up. There’s obviously some cleaning to make this world understandable, but it’s still left raw and I fucking loved that.
Satanis: The Devil’s Mass
Director: Ray Laurent
The visuals. The message. Are you a Satanist when you find yourself agreeing with almost every word spoken by the founder of Satanism? The colors of this film. Bathed in red tones. The tongue and cheek showmanship of it all. Life is a fucking carnival and we’re all in the sideshow. Watch this and tell me if it doesn’t all make logical sense?
Director: Scott Coffey
Watched this twice. Back to back. Love how this creeps up on you. For the first twenty minutes of so I wanted to turn it off. But I’m so glad I stuck with it. Emma Roberts fucking kills it in this movie. Like seriously. The vibe of this film reminds me of Wonder Boys, but I think this one is more enjoyable and feels a bit more real. Almost too real.
Director: Eli Roth
Ok, I fucking love how this starts out shot and acted like a Lifetime Original Movie. Love that. Love how insane the premise is. Love the little details. Love the spirit and vibe. Really love reading IMDb comments about how much people hate this film. I think it was brilliant.
Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes
Director: Jon Ronson
Maybe the most inspiring film I watched this year. I’m in the midst of prepping to shoot my first scripted feature film and I’m realizing just how insanely obsessive I am. I started to feel guilty about emailing my AD one hundred and fifty five messages about the color of cough syrup we’re using on screen. Ok, I’m not that obsessive, but I’m close. And watching this film I realized: that’s ok. It’s who you are. Embrace it. Accept it. Profit from it. Build a life around your obsessions. You’ll be fucking happy doing so. So here’s to a new year of new obsessions!!
Cheers and thanks for reading,