The release of Oshima’s Death by Hanging (1968) - on Blu-ray/DVD and Hulu Plus - marks the fourth installment of Oshima’s oeuvre to the Criterion Collection, the first of his work from the sixties (excluding the Eclipse Series 21: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties box-set, which includes five films from that time period). In the chronology of his filmography Death by Hanging slots in between Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (1967) and Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968), while also being his second feature-length to focus and explore the tenuous relations between the Japanese and the Koreans. That’s a total of 9 feature films that have been released under the Criterion umbrella, not to mention the seven other films available by Criterion on Hulu Plus.
When it comes to the soul set out on display in Ry Russo-Young’s You Won’t Miss Me, the subject of ownership remains indistinguishable; working from a screenplay, co-written with lead actress Stella Schnabel, which appears to contain a number of illustrations of unmitigated truth interspersed with dramatizations of breaking into the acting business. Whether these naked portrayals free from pretense stem from Schnabel’s personal life (perhaps, playing a version of herself) or Russo-Young’s (or they may even be an assemblage of collected experiences) is irrelevant since both present the character of Shelly with such conviction and consideration they render her life experiences an unquestionable actuality.
The notion of a dystopian future is nothing new in cinema; its existence has been around for quite some time given that concept lends itself well as a fertile playground for both writers and directors in the realms of creativity with a vast expanse of narrative canvas brimming with potential, ample space equipped to house an abundance of imaginative furnishings as artistic latitude is awarded amongst the various departments. Anything and everything is available for construct with the ability of restructuring and/or inventing new operational outlines for a yet-to-be determined world.
With Paul Taylor being a cinematographer, working on recent releases such as The Winds That Scatter and Wake Me When I Leave, it is not surprising that his first foray into directing would focus exclusively on visuals in order to convey his narrative, ridding the film from the constraints of dialogue effectively redirecting all focus onto the movements and body language of the actors in an attempt to present an unadulterated production of visual storytelling, stripped bare of the extraneous proving the power of purified imagery.
Inspired, in large part, by her own experiences navigating the modeling profession in Los Angeles, writer/director Marjorie Conrad mines the painful yet somewhat amusing (and at times, slightly bizarre) memories of that stretch of time, familiarities - both flattering and unbecoming - stripped bare and presented for the world to see. Conrad appears to be introducing herself to the world of film through a debut biopic feature with the central performer being a version of herself reenacting the motivating sequence of events that inevitably led to the production of this film.
Death is abundant in Tears of God, the feature-length debut from writer/director Robert Hillyer Barnett (co-written with Diamando Proimos), manufactured at the hands of others or cultivated within the familiar palms of their own. Either way, death is a pervasive condition afflicting the congregation of a small church (of sorts) nestled in the snow-covered, mountainous landscape where they worship and suffer; live and, ultimately, die.
A slumbering sojourn in the confines of intricate dreams and recollected memories, whether they be misappropriated and/or accurately depicted, the truth of which is far from discernible as the puzzle pieces of the film’s domestic investigation remain mostly unidentifiable.
At the beginning of this week I posted the first half of my Top 50 films of 2015 (#50 through #26). Today is the day I finish this list (and any further list-making endeavors until this time next year), here are the rest of my picks from 2015.
No other film has stuck with me, from this year, more so Brandon Colvin’s Sabbatical. I still find myself drifting off into the ether of my thoughts, reevaluating and dissecting the muted occurrences (as well as the circumstances of said occurrences) of Colvin’s film. I’ve talked about it extensively on various podcasts and even wrote about it for the site, but I was finally able to discuss the film with the man himself.
2015 saw a multitude of impressive releases, a bevy of which I unfortunately have not seen. A number of those unseen films I would assume would have ended up taking residence on this list, or not (you can never tell). Films like Kurt Walker's Hit 2 Pass (of which I've heard nothing but good things), Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence, Baumbach's Mistress America, Dumont's Li'l Quinquin or Guzmán's The Pearl Button. Even without seeing any of these aforementioned films, I would venture a guess that all are worthwhile in one way or another.
I saw a number of festival-run films yet to be distributed in the US, but yet not enough to warrant a stand-alone list, so I’ve decided to combine those yet-to-be-distributed films alongside a handful of honorable mentions from this year.
Now it’s time to cover the best of the best in terms of male performances from this year. I hate to keep piling it on when it comes to discussing the male performers this year, but I couldn’t help but notice the difficulty I experienced while compiling this list. Sure, there were a number of standouts but compared to their female counterparts the list of exceptional male performances were a bit lacking, in comparison.
Year-end list creating time is upon us. First up, a rundown of the best performances throughout the year from the female performers. Why the females, you ask? Because, I flipped a coin - keeping it simple. While creating both lists one thing became abundantly clear, the entries for female performances was far more robust than the male performances this year. It took me a while to whittle down the longlist, but through perseverance and an excessive, inordinate amount of time spent tweaking said list I’ve come upon an end product. So, in no particular order, here is a curated collection of my favorite performances from the year.
Giving the impression of operating from a place of aggressive indifference, Cameron Worden’s feature debut, The Idiot Faces Tomorrow, is a bizarre concoction of mixed film formats and styles forever staunch in its outright refusal to tip its hand in regards to intention and/or purpose. The Idiot Faces Tomorrow is a cinematic testament to giving exactly zero fucks when it comes to narrative cohesion, relatability, or anything that even comes close to garnering a descriptor resembling hospitable. Worden’s debut is the apex (or, perhaps more appropriately, the Marianas Trench) of unlikable character cinema.
We’ve covered a number of micro-budget Indie films from this year and one that I was lucky enough to catch was Christopher Jason Bell’s feature debut, The Winds That Scatter, during an exclusive 24-hour presentation of the film over at The Playlist back in mid-September. The film won the Best International No Budget Film Award at the Korea International Expat Film Festival and has been screening in various cities since. And, due to the arbitrary nature of the parameters of my year-end list, this won’t be the last time we mention Bell’s debut from this year.