140. In This Corner of the World (2016, Katabuchi Sunao, Japan)
There’s animated movies that want you to notice the style and there’s animated movies that moreso use its style as a pretext for more emotional work and Katabuchi Sunao’s falls absolutely into the latter. It’s not a coincidence to utilize watercolor backgrounds for a story about somebody learning to fall in love with painting and then having that potential life torn away from them in wartime is an excellent application of visually reminding us what’s left behind in this devastating tale.
139. Rhino Season (2012, Bahman Ghobadi, Iran/Turkey)
One of many films introduced to me by following Tim Brayton on Alternate Ending. I believe he states the film is unavailable in the US and it certainly never got a formal release, but it IS fortunately available to rent on YouTube as I saw it. In any case, what you’d be walking into is the most angrily charged movie to be made by an Iranian filmmaker forced in one manner or another into a sort of exile from his punishing government, not only a brand of movie that is outrageously common but one you will see other examples of later on this list. The fact that it’s based in truth could easily be what makes Rhino Season feels so charged in its righteousness, but Ghobadi is somebody who wants to communicate to you through poetics (verbal and visual) and symbolism rather than take the easy self-assured way out. He leaves no stone unturned in the indictment of a country that has wronged him using an art that they have semi-criminalized as a tool of defiance.
138. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, Joel & Ethan Coen, France/USA)
Spoiler alert: I only had room for one Coen brothers movie on this list and it was truly a battle deciding between this, Hail Caesar!, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I’m not entirely convinced I’m satisfied with the selection (I was on another folk music kicker when I finalized this list), but I settled with Inside Llewyn Davis so I may as well take a moment to admire how unexpectedly low-key it is compared to their usual arch approach. It’s not invisible since it’s impossible to ignore the deep chilly blues of Bruno Delbonnel’s vision of Greenwich Village in wintertime and it’s not necessarily out-of-character work for them with the cynical attitudes of every character in it including Oscar Isaac’s titular prick himself. But it is something that doesn’t try so hard to because very sad and weary in itself and the way that weariness lands on me as a viewer feels so hard to shrug off after watching.
137. Point de Gaze (2012, Jodie Mack, USA)
A benefit of having delayed this list for so long: I was first introduced to Jodie Mack’s work within the past few months and found much of it fascinating. Including this short which observes the titular needle lace in a variety of colors and designs in the same keen awareness of texture and depth that she’s showcased since she started her avant-gardery. But it’s really the late turn to rapid succession of opposite tones that made my jaw drop and almost blinded me with its awareness of dynamics in color and shades to turn into something unexpectedly aggressive all the same.
136. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015, Christopher McQuarrie, USA)
Maybe it’s just that my last rewatch was on a binge of the franchise and it was exciting to see how much better Rogue Nation was from where the movie series originally started, but I think what really pushes this movie so high on the list is how it feels at once the logical next step in both of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol‘s best elements: it structures its action setpieces so that it doesn’t lose steam and it adopts the television series’ wonderful teamwork oriented spy thrills to the best that it has ever been, with actual arcs for characters that are not Tom Cruise! Satisfying on both a spectacle and storytelling level for any long-time fans of the tv series, making good on Ghost Protocol‘s righting the ship.
135. Margaret (2011, Kenneth Lonergan, USA)
I will let you all speculate as to whether or not it’s right to disqualify The Other Side of the Wind and not this (I think the fact that this was not unfinished, that Lonergan was alive to give his approval of the cut released and then still make another cut qualifies this), but this is the kind of storytelling where the flaws are the benefits just the same. Lonergan’s allowance for his characters to have sloppy concepts of life and to make mistakes and to still remain wholly consistent in this messy adolescent opera proved to be – like all of Lonergan’s other works, but especially in this film – the best possible arena for actors to dive into their characters and give their best performances, particularly Anna Paquin’s teenage wreck of a human being.
134. The Bling Ring (2013, Sofia Coppola, USA/UK/France/Germany/Japan)
Sofia Coppola comes from this Los Angeles celebrity-obsessed culture – it’s right there in her name – so it only makes sense that she can infiltrate with the same sharp ruthlessness that any other outsider tries to satirize this without nearly as much depth and teeth. Her recruiting of the late great Harris Savides and Christopher Blauvelt to capture the superficiality in the lens and Stacey Battat to capture it in the fabric resulted in a one-of-a-kind super team to show us just how unattractive this culture of status and obsession could be through unexpected channels.
133. Heli (2013, Amat Escalante, Mexico)
A movie that it would be way too easy to call miserable and be done with it and indeed it is a hard movie to watch with all the wall-to-wall brutality that makes up the second half with uncomfortable patience in letting it all get worse and worse. But it doesn’t get most of its power without having real flesh-and-blood characters at the center of it all established with a relaxed version of that same patience in the first half, then trying to navigate a very hostile situation and coming out of the other side in some thankfully preserved state if not perfect. Angry precision at delivering exhausting thriller conceits and also depicting just how harsh the real world can be.
132. Love & Friendship (2016, Whit Stillman, Ireland/France/Netherland/UK)
I said it before when I praised its screenplay on the Motors post but I’ll just say it again here: Whit Stillman & Jane Austen go together like peanut butter and jelly, even if you’re able to recognize how ably Stillman was able to fill in the blanks of an unfinished work to further fit his manner of verbal wit and style in some approximation of Austen’s dialogue and arc work on top of being a lavishly appealing movie to look at. What I may also add is how it feels like an opportunity to get Kate Beckinsale make in the same snippy and cutting mode that she was in her last Stillman collaboration, The Last Days of Disco, without breaking a sweat at the change of language giving us a character that is a jerk but totally fun to listen to nevertheless.
131. No (2012, Pablo Larraín, Chile/France/USA)
The type of movie that can recognize the fun and creativity in activism while also being willing to self-examine at what point do we lose sight of the endgoal and what is truly motivating one in certain capacities for this work. Even with that clear-eyedness, it’s not usual that political cinema gets so bright and cheerful in its delivery (I know I noted Sorry to Bother You earlier in this list, but it doesn’t anywhere near the smiling optimism that this has) and the way that Larraín makes us aware of No‘s status as such a piece of consumable agitprop in itself from the Betacam shooting to the usage of Gael García Bernal as a familiar face is a big part of No ability to deliver leftist ideals while also being self-reflexive as a work of art. A work of comedy art, mind you, celebrating the time that art actively took a dictator out of power.