Mix: Nothing Left To Lose

No overarching theme here, just some songs I’ve been listening to lately that are split nearly evenly between old and new. Most mixes I’ve made for other people tend to follow this non-format with selections I think they’d like to hear; this one, however, is for me.

Much of the new-ish stuff has a retro-disco tint that is always welcome; we’re so many decades past the “disco sucks” era (it arguably vanished once Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” hit in 1990) that such a notion now looks not only misinformed but positively quaint. Not that it’s suddenly fashionable, give or take a Dua Lipa or Lady Gaga, but just the idea of wistful, joyous, throw-all-caution-to-the-wind dance music endures whether it’s an unlikely duet between Carly Rae Jepsen and Rufus Wainwright, a kaleidoscopic anthem from former Savage Garden vocalist Darren Hayes, or an unlikely but euphoric ode to formalwear from U.S. Girls’ just-released album Bless This Mess. A choice cut from Pet Shop Boys’ best LP of the 21st century, 2013’s Electric, fits right in with these glitterball newbies.

And yet, I reiterate this isn’t a thematic mix since most of the other new songs aren’t danceable at all. Former Go-Betweens member Robert Forster takes stock of a thirty-year relationship and the profound meaning it has given his life, Yves Tumor crafts an itchy, rhythmic, onomatopoetic earworm, the onomatopoetically named beabadoobee pays inspired tribute to a similarly-titled classic by The Cure and The National ascends towards dad-rock heaven on their latest (and maybe best?) single. Listen as they all complement older tunes such as Blossom Dearie elegantly essaying another standard, Richard and Linda Thompson exhibiting fine defiance and drollness and Sky Ferreira constructing 21st century 1980s music out of such time-honored tools as melody and urgency.

The new song that kicks the mix off and gives it a title is a musical reunion for a duo who has recorded separately since the year 2000. I always wondered if Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt would ever work together again since they’ve remained a couple all this time; the first released track from the forthcoming album Fuse seems to almost pick up where they left off on 1999’s Temperamental with its electronic fervor, chill breakbeats and Thorn’s diva-like croon. But she sounds intriguingly deeper and wearier than she did just five years ago on her own great Record. “Kiss me while the world decays / Kiss me while the music plays” she repeats near the end and for sure, Everything But The Girl are firmly standing in 2023.

Haunted Jukebox Mix #2: Nothing Left To Lose

24 Frames: The Royal Tenenbaums

Pauline Kael rarely saw a movie more than once. Even near the end of her life, long after her tenure as film critic at The New Yorker, she remarked, “I still don’t look at movies twice. It’s funny, I just feel I got it the first time.” While Kael’s quirk is a notorious one, it’s to some extent explicable given that she spent most of her career pre-home video. Apart from theatrical releases or even private screenings, she had limited access to rewatching a title, at least compared to today’s wealth of viewing options. Yet even with them, of the thousands of films I’ve seen over the past three decades, there’s at least half, maybe even two-thirds that I’ll likely never rewatch or want to revisit. After all, if I limited myself to first-time watches, I’d never run out of new things to see.

Still, a world where I never again returned to Mulholland DriveBeau Travail or Young Frankenstein holds little appeal. I acknowledge that films (and, for that matter, books and episodic television series) require a heftier time commitment than a favorite piece of music. I can prepare for an essay on an album by listening to it four or five times over the course of a day; for one on a film like 2001: A Space Odyssey, however, I’d need to put at least 10-15 hours for an equivalent experience. As a visual medium, movies require closer concentration. Unless you literally know one by heart, you arguably can’t put it on in the background and absorb it while attending to other tasks as you could with any piece of music from Abbey Road to ABBA Gold.

I’ll often rewatch a movie for one of three reasons: it’s playing theatrically, available for streaming or just simply one of my favorite films. Accessibility plays a key role here but so do other factors. Is it something I’d love to see on a cinema’s big screen given the opportunity? Do I revisit it because I haven’t watched it in decades and want to see how well it holds up (or not)? Has the film been in my thoughts for whatever reason (for instance, having read a web article or a social media post about it), or is it something I love to rewatch because it gives me joy, no matter how many times I view it? 

Particularly in the pre-streaming age, this last reason was my most common for wanting to see a film again (and in some cases, again and again.) When my family acquired our first VCR in 1985, we soon accumulated a cabinet overflowing with recorded VHS tapes of favorite movies and TV shows I’d watch repeatedly, from childhood favorites like Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown to movies such as Monty Python and The Holy Grail and dozens of episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I replayed some more than others but the novelty and attraction of having a permanent record of something I loved to watch whenever I wanted (often for the price of a blank tape) was considerable. Even later on, when VHS tapes largely became priced-to-own (instead of priced-to-rent), for comparatively little money one could proudly curate a collection of favorite titles akin to having shelves of CDs or stacks of vinyl.

1999, Left to Right: Cassettes, books, videotapes (and a few records…)

Beyond accessibility or convenience, that “it” factor which draws us repeatedly to a particular work of art is harder to pinpoint. I may as well have watched Trainspotting over a dozen times because I owned it on VHS (and later, DVD) but I didn’t just watch it because it was there. Something in it beckoned me to want to see it again and again because I got something out of it (and in most cases, something different) each time. I’ve revisited films that don’t hold up to subsequent viewings—La La Land is a good recent example. While I appreciated its invention  and audacity the first time through, after rewatching it ten days later with my family, my first thought leaving the cinema was, “Well, I never need to see that again.” In this case, the novelty had worn off, enabling me to see the film’s flaws more clearly. Luckily, most rewatches are worth the time and effort, even if they all can’t be as continuously rewarding as Trainspotting which took me a few run-throughs to fully comprehend the deeper, often ironic implications beneath all the flash and fury of its editing, music and performances.

There’s also comfort in returning to favorite works of art. While as a well-rounded film critic I strive to seek out titles I haven’t seen before (both new and old), I return to specific ones because their familiarity provides solace, often for various reasons. I’ll rewatch some films as a tradition in celebrating a particular season like Christmas or Halloween (for years, the latter wasn’t complete without a viewing of Dario Argento’s Suspiria or the Bela Lugosi Dracula.) Others I’ll put on when I’m in a particular mood: Bringing Up Baby for screwball comedy, Back To The Future for 1980s escapism, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for psychedelic, counterculture exploitation. What pleasure I find in these films is, like any work of art, entirely subjective; for instance, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant together never fail to make me laugh (which is why I also adore Holiday), the Robert Zemeckis film came out when I was 10 and had a formative impact on me at the time and the Russ Meyers-directed, Roger Ebert-scripted film is so gloriously bonkers that watching it is never less than a blast.

Rarer than isolated titles lending themselves to multiple viewings are those entire oeuvres of a particular filmmaker that do so. Naturally, I’ve revisited many works by some of my favorite directors from Robert Altman to Claire Denis. Over time, Wes Anderson has proven something of an ideal in this regard. Most of his films hold up to additional viewings because, so densely are they packed with insane attention-to-detail production design and such complex, shifting tones that I get more out of them each time. I’ve grown accustomed to giving Wes the benefit of the doubt if I’m initially underwhelmed by one of his pictures—The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example, struck me as nothing more than a solid addition to his canon when it came out in 2014 and became his highest-grossing film to date. Revisiting it seven years later, I found it exceptionally moving to a degree I hadn’t previously, marveling at its tenderness for a lost, presumed world rather than just admiring the intricate fantasy world it had presented.

Like most people my age or older, Anderson’s second feature Rushmore was the first one I saw during its early 1999 theatrical run (his first, 1996’s Bottle Rocket got such a limited release that I hadn’t even heard of it.) The first film of his I revisited, however, was his third. Stoked by my love of Rushmore, I prioritized seeing The Royal Tenenbaums like no other new release in December 2001. After that first screening at the AMC Fenway in Boston, I thought it was… fine. I placed it at #7 on my annual top ten list; in my journal, I praised its set design, soundtrack and some of its cast but also thought that “it made little advance” on the “visionary”(!) Rushmore. So, not a failure or outright disappointment but apparently not as impactful as Waking Life (my #1 film of that year at the time), Memento (#2) or In The Mood For Love(#3).

The Young Tenenbaums

Flash forward seven months to a particularly taxing summer. Just about shellshocked by the rough (if necessary) end of a long-term relationship, I sought comfort wherever I could find it. During a week-long “staycation” from work, on a whim, I rented the newly-released Criterion Collection DVD of The Royal Tenenbaums. After this rewatch, I wrote, “I found it more affecting the second time: once you know to expect the sensory overload and stylistic quirks that threaten to turn too brittle or clever, you’re left with a literary jewel of a film that makes the most of Rushmore’s best qualities.” It wasn’t long before I purchased my own copy—while the Criterion Collection was mostly beyond my price-range at that point, Anderson had made a deal with the distributor to issue the film at a lower price point for consumers.

As autumn beckoned, I kept returning to my The Royal Tenenbaums DVD. My 19”, late 1980s-model TV probably didn’t provide as robust a viewing experience as a big cinema screen would have, but in this case, Anderson’s carefully packed mise-en-scène felt reassuring rather than overwhelming. For instance, take the bravura opening sequence. Accompanied by a swelling, then soaring instrumental version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and wistful voiceover narration (from a rarely better Alec Baldwin), it provided succinct but revealing mini-portraits of each member of the Tenenbaum family as it toured 111 Archer Avenue, their enormous, meticulously designed New York brownstone (as much of a character as its inhabitants), informing us of their rise, decline and subsequent fracture, all in the space of a few minutes.

From there, the story picks up twenty-two years later. Banished and broke patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) longs to “make up for lost time” with the family he neglected, only to discover how much everyone has changed. His estranged wife, archaeologist Etheline (Anjelica Huston) is now engaged to Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), a respectable accountant—he’s “everything Royal is not,” (as Royal himself notes late in the film.) Uptight, eldest son Chas (Ben Stiller) is an entrepreneur traumatized over the recent death of his wife. Overprotective of his two pint-sized-versions-of-himself sons, Ari and Uzi, he moves them back into the Tenenbaum home. Adopted, eternally disaffected middle child Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), a failed playwright, and shattered youngest son Richie (Luke Wilson), a former tennis pro, also return. Margot is stuck in a loveless marriage to psychologist Raleigh St. Clair (a somewhat dour Bill Murray) and is cheating on him with Richie’s childhood friend, novelist Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), while Richie is secretly in love with her. With the aid of butler/sidekick Pagoda (Kumar Pallana), Royal schemes to return to 111 Archer Avenue and win back everyone he’s alienated.

The film weaves together a tapestry exploring familial relations made relatable by Anderson’s quirky but ultimately compassionate sensibility. Structured like a novel (the opening shot imagines the film as a well-worn book being checked out of the library) and divided into chapters, it’s also bursting at the seams with literary references and allusions. For instance, most of the characters have either written books (from Margot’s plays to Henry’s Accounting For Everything) or, in Richie’s case, have appeared on a magazine cover. The film’s design also suggests a comic strip come to life (it’s no coincidence that the Peanuts standard “Christmas Time Is Here” plays in a scene having nothing to do with that holiday.) Virtually every character is cloaked a requisite costume of sorts that rarely changes throughout: Richie’s tennis shirt and headband, Henry’s blue blazer and bow tie, Chas’ red Adidas track suit and the identical, miniature versions his sons wear. The immaculately storyboarded interior sets with their deep pink walls and insane attention to detail (the childhood drawings on Richie’s bedroom walls (created by Anderson’s brother Eric), the walk-in closet overflowing with board games) are also obviously exaggerated. Many shots even feature someone tightly framed through a window, peering at the outside world.

Royal ponders his future.

Although it had a relatively large budget (twice that of Rushmore), a high-profile ensemble cast (supposedly, Hackman’s and Huston’s parts were written with them in mind) and a far wider, more ambitious scope, it was, at that time, still instantly recognizable as a Wes Anderson film.  Like the previous two, it featured credits entirely done in Futura Bold typeface, a whimsical musical score from former Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh, Anderson stock players such as Pallana, Seymour Cassel (as Dusty, the elevator operator-cum-doctor) and Andrew Wilson (Luke and Owen’s older brother), a cameo from the director himself (as the tennis announcer) and a final, reflective shot that’s filmed in slow-motion. Viewers could also look out for various motifs and in-jokes: the number of Tenenbaums wearing a piece of pale pink clothing at any given moment, the particular instrument on the soundtrack most prominent during Margot’s scenes, the cameo appearance (as a paramedic) by one Brian Tenenbaum, a real-life college friend of Anderson’s.

For all its self-aware cleverness, off-the-wall sight gags, and excessive stylization, The Royal Tenenbaums is really a sweet, rather poignant film that resonates more profoundly with each viewing. Once you’ve absorbed such showy (but dazzling) moments as a detective’s clipped rundown to Raleigh and Richie of Margot’s past loves (furiously edited to The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”), you’re left with essentially a kindhearted (if occasionally side-splitting) tale of redemption. Marvel at the brilliant long take where Royal tells Etheline he’s dying and note how Huston’s reaction continually shifts from disgust and surprise to concern, grief and rage without missing a beat. Observe how Anderson often tempers melancholy with hilarity without obscuring either tone (e.g., the Gypsy Cab that appears just in time as Margot walks out on Raleigh.) Pay attention to subtle details like how Royal finally refers to Margot not as “my adopted daughter”, but simply, “my daughter” in the ice cream parlor. Take in the “Sparkplug Minuet” scene late in the film, where the camera tracks from one group of characters to another along the street outside 111 Archer Avenue and notice the obvious affection and care Anderson has for each of them. At one point, poor, yearning, forever-the-outsider Eli gently says, “I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” Royal replies (mostly to himself), “Me, too,” and you just want to join him in unison.

I pause to think what life would be like had I emulated Kael and never bothered to give The Royal Tenenbaums (or anything else) a second viewing. I might remember it fondly the way I do, say, In The Bedroom or The Man Who Wasn’t There (to name two other films from that time I’ve never rewatched.) If I hadn’t seen it again, perhaps I wouldn’t have given subsequent Anderson films like the aforementioned The Grand Budapest Hotel or Tenenbaums’ even more ambitious and widely misunderstood follow-up The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) a second chance. With the exception of his most recent work (2020’s The French Dispatch), I’ve seen all of Anderson’s movies more than once and each rewatch has yielded similar results. Tenenbaums remains my favorite, perhaps due to when I saw it and that process of being able to see deeper into it on additional viewings, but he has other works that come close, like Grand Budapest, 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom and of course Rushmore, forever his breakthrough film.

We revisit works for the pleasure they provide. Occasionally, we also have a sixth sense, an inclination that there’s more to glean from them than we can discern from a single viewing. The best films (and books, and albums etc.) are ones that gradually insert themselves into our lives and by extension, our subconsciousness. Their dialogue, visual design, narratives and richly-drawn characters become part of us whether, in this case, we identify more strongly with well-meaning asshole Royal or guilt-ridden, tortured Richie. Revisit them enough and they become touchstones raising the bar for what we expect and hope from every new (and in some cases, old) movie we watch.

Essay #13 of 24 Frames.

Go back to #12: Mulholland Drive.

#MWE February 2023

My second year participating in #MWE (Music Writers Exercise) where for the month of February, I listen to an album for the first time every day and tweet about it. A productive way to go through all the albums I’ve added to my Spotify library but haven’t yet made the time to listen to, but if I do it next year, it won’t be on Twitter, which has devolved into a ghost town/shit show since its unfortunate Musk-ification. These days, tweeting almost anything feels like flinging thoughts into a void and I didn’t experience nearly as much engagement as I did last year. Perhaps in 2024 I’ll try Facebook or Instagram or just save everything for here.

Here’s what I posted for February 2023:

1. Primal Scream, Vanishing Point (1997): Not as highly regarded as Screamadelica but maybe it should be for its sample-heavy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach actually coheres. A close companion to Morcheeba’s debut from the year before, if not exactly trip-hop.

2. Peggy Lee, Sea Shells (1958): In stark contrast to the era’s maximalism, this is simply Lee trilling folk songs over harp and occasional harpsichord. Her readings of “Chinese Love Poems” anticipate the verses of “Is That All There Is?” minus the droll detachment.

3. Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People (2002): Harder to get a handle on than that other Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers, call it scrappy “Indie-rock” (for lack of a better term) with unflashy hooks even if “Pacific Theme” could almost be 1970s Chicago.

4. The Wild Tchoupitoulas, S/T (1976): A glorious one-off: Mardi Gras Indians performing Allen Toussaint-produced funk-rock. With songs primary about how much fun it is to be them, it emanates so much pure bliss, deserving a place on the shelf next to Dr. John’s Gris-Gris.

5. Robert Forster, The Candle and The Flame (2023): A beacon of solace in a world we have can’t control. Intimate and direct but rarely ever obvious. Might take weeks or months for some of these hooks to resonate but they’re there and just one facet of the grand design. 

6. Charles Mingus, East Coasting (1957): Less formally radical than what he’d record in the following years but that doesn’t mean less effective or interesting. As always with Mingus, he constructs a nimble but solid foundation that encourages all the players on top to shine.

7. Gem Club, In Roses (2014): Could’ve been recorded in a bedroom or a cathedral. Near-ambient pop that probably needs more than one listen to sink in for all I can recall are the legato, echoing piano chords, occasional strings and Christopher Barnes’ ethereal sigh. 

8. Meshell Ndegeocello, The World Has Made Me The Man Of My Dreams (2007): A groove record that, after caffeinated near-drum-and-bass salvo “The Sloganeer” drifts unpredictably but languorously like an ultra-chill George Clinton. Most revealing song title: “Elliptical”.

9. Neu!, S/T (1972): Today, I learned that Negativland named themselves after a track off this; also learned that (last track aside) this is far more accessible than what I expected of krautrock, so either it seems less radical than it did fifty years ago or I’m just a weirdo. 

10. The Loud Family, The Tape Of Only Linda (1994): Okay, now I get why Aimee Mann liked Scott Miller enough to make an (unreleased) LP with him. This proves he did have a tight ten-track pop record in him; not that it would ever cross over like even Mann occasionally could.

11. Leonard Cohen, Recent Songs (1979): His only pre-2000 LP I hadn’t heard; coming off his Phil Spector disaster, it’s a model of restraint and consequently a tad boring until the Mariachi horns appear and one can safely resume questioning whether he’s being serious or not.

12. Yo La Tengo, This Stupid World (2023): Could be titled Death, Taxes and Yo La Tengo for all the consistency/dependability it emits. Not much stands out but everything coheres and gently sparkles like a vast starry night. Easy to take them for granted, so listen closely.

13. Van Dyke Parks, Discover America (1972): One of my more delightful first listens in months. Public domain tunes with a little whimsy, a lot of personality and as usual with Parks, ingenuous arrangements, anticipating those he’d compose with Nilsson for Altman’s Popeye.

14. Various Artists, One Kiss Can Lead To Another (2005): I thought this 52-minute digital distillation of an out-of-print, vintage girl group box set would be sufficient but now I wish I had access to the whole thing. An underrated genre from a not-so-innocent era, really.

15. FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE (2019): Obvious comparisons aside, I can’t get a handle on who she is which I suppose is the point. Acting unknowable can run the risk of obscurity but the production’s so striking it serves partially as a way in rather than just fancy window dressing.

16. Caroline Polachek, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You (2023): Likening her to Dido didn’t occur to me until she popped up on “Fly To You”; actually, this is near-worthy of early, edgier Sarah McLachlan, buffed and shined to a cool gleam other guest Grimes should aspire to.

17. Tennis, Pollen (2023): This couple/duo has raised “staying in one’s lane” to an art form but such interchangeability works when there’s consistency and ample hooks. Might sound better over retail loudspeakers than headphones but that comes down to one’s own preference.

18. Curtis Mayfield, Super Fly (1972): The joy in doing this exercise is to find a classic record you can’t believe you’ve never heard before. I don’t need to tell the world how sublime and definitive this soundtrack is, only to give it another chance if you’re unconvinced.

19. The Teardrop Explodes, Kilimanjaro (1980): On the basis of some of Cope’s solo work, not as wild and surely poppier than contemporaries such as Echo and The Bunnymen or The Soft Boys. Sirius XM’s “First Wave” could stand to play them (and so many other artists) more often.

20. The Upsetters, Blackboard Jungle Dub (1973): Knowing very little about dub reggae, this was exactly what I expected until it quoted both “Pop Goes The Weasel” and “Tijuana Taxi” in the same track. Such mischief broke up the repetition but was it more than just a goof?

21. Tame Impala, “Lonerism” (2012): The real test of a supposed stoner-friendly album is how well it holds up when listened to while sober. Even when favoring texture over melody, this makes the grade, though as a one-man band he might be better off revering Eno than Rundgren.

22. Life Without Buildings, Any Other City (2001): I spent years looking for this in used CD stores based on hype and hearsay; while it lives up to its postpunk-with-quirky-spoken-vocals description, not even that prepared me for Sue Tompkins’ cadences and fizzy demeanor.

23. Scott Walker, The Drift (2006): Sure, I prefer Walker’s more accessible earlier work, but there’s enough of it and this is purposely something else, pushing beyond accepted parameters of song structure toward a sound that’s compelling and confounding in equal measure.

24. Al Stewart, Past, Present and Future (1973): Of course he’s so much more than his two big hits even if those wistful, mealy vocals all but define him. Unlike fellow 70s art-poppers Supertramp, his wispy Anglo-quirk endures because he leans closer to folk-rock than prog.

25. Phish, The Story of The Ghost (1998): Got off the bus just prior to this one and I might’ve liked it more back then. Same issues as usual with them: heartfelt but patchy (and dorky), dexterous but diminished by studio confinement, insular despite all the genre-blending.

26. U.S. Girls, Bless This Mess (2023): “Fonky” as opposed to funky. Emulates Steely Dan, quotes from Jimi Hendrix and sounds like Daft Punk. Best songs are about monkey suits and the color spectrum. Increasingly slick and exceedingly weird (and enough to hold my attention.)

27. Destroyer, Trouble In Dreams (2008): Barely hints at the big pivot Bejar would make three years later on Kaputt but I’ll give him this: over time, I’ve pivoted from him as that guy w/the annoying voice in The New Pornographers to someone incapable of making a bad record.

28. Robert Wyatt, Shleep (1997): Tuneful and dissonant (often simultaneously), he seems as versed in and enticed by classic rock tropes as with free-floating, sing-song poetic improvisation. Challenging but rarely boring, not one second of it feels wasted or redundant.

Favorite Albums of Every Year Since 1975

Years ago, possibly even before I began my 100 Albums project, I participated in a then-popular meme where one would pick their favorite albums of each year since birth. Now that I’ve recently completed another trip around the sun, here is an update along with links to all the albums I wrote about in that project and elsewhere. Not too many changes, although Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing is one of my best discoveries in the past decade (checked it out after reading her memoir, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs which quotes the album track “Art Groupie”); other records such as Bad GirlsPurple Rain and Cosmic Thing continue to grow in my estimation and endure, even if I didn’t originally include them among my 100 favorite albums:

1975: Brian Eno, Another Green World

1976: Joni Mitchell, Hejira

1977: Brian Eno, Before and After Science

1978: Blondie, Parallel Lines

1979: Donna Summer, Bad Girls

1980: Talking Heads, Remain In Light

1981: Grace Jones, Nightclubbing

1982: Kate Bush, The Dreaming

1983: Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes

1984: Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain

1985: Kate Bush, Hounds of Love

1986: XTC, Skylarking

1987: Prince, Sign O’ The Times

1988: The Go-Betweens, 16 Lovers Lane

1989: The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing

1990: Concrete Blonde, Bloodletting

1991: Seal, Seal

1992: R.E.M., Automatic For The People

1993: Pet Shop Boys, Very

1994: Everything But The Girl, Amplified Heart

1995: Pizzicato Five, The Sound of Music By Pizzicato Five

1996: Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister

1997: Ivy, Apartment Life

1998: Saint Etienne, Good Humor / Fairfax High

1999: The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

2000: The Avalanches, Since I Left You

2001: Sam Phillips, Fan Dance

2002: Stew, The Naked Dutch Painter (…and Other Songs)

2003: Calexico, Feast of Wire

2004: Kings of Convenience, Riot On An Empty Street

2005: Saint Etienne, Tales From Turnpike House

2006: Charlotte Gainsbourg, 5:55

2007: Imperial Teen, The Hair, The TV, The Baby and The Band

2008: Sam Phillips, Don’t Do Anything

2009: Florence + The Machine, Lungs

2010: Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can

2011: Emm Gryner, Northern Gospel

2012: Jens Lekman, I Know What Love Isn’t

2013: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

2014: Future Islands, Singles

2015: Roisin Murphy, Hairless Toys

2016: The Radio Dept., Running Out of Love

2017: Saint Etienne, Home Counties

2018: Tracy Thorn, Record

2019: Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet

2020: Jessie Ware, What’s Your Pleasure?

2021: Aimee Mann, Queens of the Summer Hotel

2022: Beth Orton, Weather Alive

Hidden Boston

I’ve always been a proponent of being a tourist in one’s own town; having taken many pictures documenting the city’s iconic spaces over the years, here are a baker’s dozen that you likely won’t find on a tourism map or website.

We begin in Louisburg Square, arguably the toniest enclave of Beacon Hill, the city’s toniest neighborhood. I don’t remember this old-fashioned mailbox always being there although it’s possible someone may have recently painted or gussied it up. Sitting along old row homes and cobblestone sidewalks, its antiquity fits right in.

A couple blocks away on Beacon Street near the State House sits this somewhat dingy luncheonette which, at least from the outside hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1977. I haven’t tried it (as with most downtown eating places, it’s only open during working week hours) but I’d be sad if it ever closed for good as it’s part of a vanishing breed gradually being taken over by your Cavas, Sweetgreens and Chipotles.

A Google search reveals that Scotch n’ Sirloin, a restaurant overlooking a stretch of I-93 that wasn’t entirely consumed by the Big Dig twenty-odd years ago closed in 1991 and yet the sign remains (the above photo is from December 2020) and likely will until the building gets rehabbed or torn down.

For years, this truck for Kitty’s Restaurant and Lounge in the far North suburbs has been a fixture at Haymarket. I don’t know why, exactly, but it’s always parked there and I rarely fail to notice its distinctive logo.

The North End is a tourism Mecca but out-of-towners tend to flock there for the restaurants, the Italian pastries, the Freedom Trail, etc. People actually live there too and occasionally need to service their vehicles (though let’s face it, the word “LUBRICATION” caught my eye more than anything else.)

Also spotted in the North End: a fake owl on top of a tow-zone sign. I don’t get it, either.

On the opposite end of downtown is Boston’s Chinatown, an ideal spot for Dim Sum but perhaps not so much for those seeking medical attention. My first thought upon seeing this unflashy dated signage in 2015 was, “Oh, really?”; according to Google Maps, work was being done on it as of 2020.

Speaking of dated signage, when Copley Place mall in the Back Bay began finally updating their 1980s-designed interior a few years ago, I knew I had to get a shot of this, located in hallway next to what was then Barney’s (and, long ago, a multiplex cinema with postage-stamp sized theaters) and is now Saks Fifth Avenue Mens’ Store.

A few blocks from the mall, probably on Marlborough St. or Commonwealth Ave. The neighborhood rivals (probably exceeds) Beacon Hill in terms of wealth, yet I tend to see the most elaborate (not to mention unsettling) Halloween decorations there every year.

Stepping away from Central Boston, it’s the Marmo Pedestrian Overpass in Orient Heights, a section of East Boston that I visited in May 2016 simply because I could (the Blue Line T goes out there.) It’s a pleasant, unremarkable neighborhood, most notable for Constitution Beach and this colorful footbridge. I posted a bunch of pix from there on my now-defunct Tumblr and maybe I’ll repost some of them here one day.

From East Boston to the city’s Westernmost boundary, which happens to be a ten minute walk from where I currently live. I’ll post an entire essay on West Roxbury some other time, but for now, here’s Sawmill Brook at Millennium Park, a vista I’ve taken dozens of shots of over the years; it’s almost as far West as one can go while staying within the city limits.

I was going to conclude with this whimsical hydrant on a residential West Roxbury street that I got to know well via many pandemic-era neighborhood walks.

However, I spotted this twin hydrant one street over the other day. Now I’m curious as to whether others exist throughout this neighborhood and beyond. Stay tuned.

Mix: Cold Comfort

In an effort to live up to this blog’s name, I plan on posting a new mix/playlist at least once a month going forward. Some will have a theme of sorts, others will be centered around one artist (or perhaps a related group of them) and a few will have no connecting thread at all and consist of new and old songs that I’m into at the present moment.

I’m kicking off this series with a thematic mix mostly culled from an ongoing playlist I keep of songs I want to listen to when it’s cold outside—scratch that, when the temperature dips below freezing, the sun occasionally peeks out through the terminal gray skies and all feels blustery and raw, an invitation to sit by the fireplace with a mug of hot tea (or perhaps a glass of cognac.) When linked together, the words “cold” and “comfort” bring to mind a stark contrast between the outside world and refuge taken from it indoors.

To find solace in this bleak midwinter, I often turn to (mostly) acoustic folk-pop. The first three tracks here come from late ‘60s/early ‘70s UK-based artists in reverse order of renown—I’d likely be unfamiliar Scot Bert Jansch if not for his inclusion on The Squid and The Whale soundtrack nearly two decades ago. I could’ve made an entire playlist of such likeminded folk (in both senses), but although they did this sort of stuff very well (Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny had an exquisite, peerless voice), that doesn’t mean Americans weren’t up to the task decades later. Sufjan Stevens, for instance, has sustained a career by defying expectations from album to album but he’s arguably never matched the stripped-down intimacy of Seven Swans (2004) and its guitar-and-vocal instant standard “To Be Alone With You”.

Most of these songs are defined by their sparse instrumentation, calm sense of wonder and general quietude. After a while, amidst an excess of acoustic guitar, other elements emerge and gain power they wouldn’t necessarily retain in isolation: the dwindling piano riff on Kings of Convenience’s “Riot On An Empty Street”, the disarming fiddle laced throughout Grant McLennan’s “Hot Water”, the harmonica adding texture to Saint Etienne’s “Former Lover”. Even when things briefly turn electric, as on Nicole Atkins’ “If I Could”, its restraint and tone is enough to sit alongside purer, acoustic-guitar-and-voice selections such as Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins’ fable-like “Rabbit Fur Coat”, Rufus Wainwright’s campfire sing-along cover of his father Loudon Wainwright III’s “One Man Guy” and Concrete Blonde’s plaintive but effective “Make Me Cry”.

I also can’t help but place a classic hit everyone knows like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” or even the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back” (note that vaguely sinister guitar hook) next to a relatively more obscure and recent number like Belle and Sebastian’s “Piazza, New York Catcher”; together, they show how, through the decades, music (and folk music, in particular) may evolve but also evoke an ongoing tradition that, no matter what adjustments or mutations occur is as recognizable and heartening as a sliver of sun during a cold snap.

Haunted Jukebox Mix #1: Cold Comfort

Favorite Films of 2022


A few nights after viewing this, I was still piecing it together—less in terms of logistics than taking in all the shifting perspectives, recurring images, ambiguous tones and sustained feeling of drifting in and out of consciousness. Then again, I like movies that are somewhat unknowable. I retain and reflect on the experience of watching this more than anything else I’ve seen in some time. Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is less a key for a lock than an open door into another way of seeing. Also, Paul Mescal proves that his breakthrough performance in NORMAL PEOPLE was just an inkling of things to come.

2. TÁR

A great film, and writer/director Todd Field and star Cate Blanchett seem to know it; such air would normally be off-putting, but the fluidity and grace with which the whole thing moves (acrobatic sound design and all) reminds me of something like Kenneth Lonergan’s MARGARET but minus that film’s pretensions towards greatness, or perhaps everything comes together so convincingly that it doesn’t matter. A pitch-black comedy in prestige drama clothing, TÁR is sui generis, nearly as entertaining as Paul Thomas Anderson and as enigmatic as Kubrick. 158 minutes have rarely passed by so swiftly.


I recently wrote something about falling in love with a film over its opening credits, and I think this one is a contender. A tad more accessible and also genre-defying than director Kogonada’s last film COLUMBUS without lessening the qualities that made it unique, it’s science fiction without walls, exploring artifice and memory and what it could look like if the two would ever intersect. Also, I want to feel as passionate about and satiated by something as Colin Farrell’s character (his best work since THE LOBSTER, though see also #11 below) is with regards to tea. 


Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first film outside of Asia (and follow-up to my favorite film of the last decade) is no less experimental than his previous work, thank god. Tilda Swinton’s been an expertly intuitive reactor since her Derek Jarman days, and this might be her most fascinating performance in some time for how she simultaneously commands the screen and also fades into it. I found this fascinating (if equally confounding) after my first viewing; it made somewhat more sense after a second viewing but remained, like everything else the director has done, slow, perplexing, surprising and one-of-a-kind.


Her weathered face, Tennessee accent and general moxie has relegated Dale Dickey to smaller, supporting parts (most notably WINTER’S BONE); here, she’s as earthy and tenacious as you’d expect, but this tailor-made leading role allows her to exhibit much more vulnerability and warmth than usual. Furthermore, writer/director Max Walker-Silverman’s gem of a first feature gradually reveals itself as a film about time and loss, the need for connection and the benefit of perseverance and finding strength within. Although Dickey’s character doesn’t stray far from where she’s anchored her trailer, she goes on a considerable journey of the soul.


Despite all the awards it received last year, I’m counting this as a 2022 film since it didn’t screen or stream here until then. The allure of this bold if leisurely paced Murakami adaptation is that you don’t necessarily know where it’s going, but when it gets there, the impact is staggering without seeming showy or unearned. I first saw it last March and am still looking forward to carving out another three hours to watch it again.


Call it the year of Tilda Swinton, I guess, or call this Joanna Hogg’s THE PARENT TRAP, only Swinton plays mother and daughter instead of twins, the genre’s gothic/psychological horror (set at an equally creepy/charming old British estate/hotel) rather than Disney rom-com, and the dog (Swinton’s own pet!) gets fourth billing. Also the third of a trilogy (which includes THE SOUVENIR, PART II (see below)) and possibly the best of the three.


Mostly meeting my ridiculously high expectations for it, Sarah Polley’s return to filmmaking is both of the moment and seemingly timeless. Though the story occasionally oversteps and the final section drags a bit, those are minor complaints: here, Polley depicts a world contained to the point of being restrictive; with great catharsis and reasoning, the film shows with artful clarity why this is damaging and what future generations can do to avoid succumbing to such a closed-off, incomplete life.


Terence Davies’ portrait of World War I soldier/poet Siegfried Sassoon is as unique as you’d expect from the director; what I wasn’t expecting was something more akin to his early masterworks like THE LONG DAY CLOSES than anything he’s done since. Along with his other recent poet biopic about Emily Dickinson, Davies is clearly on a late-career high with this, his most deliciously bitchy film to date (and it doesn’t even have Laura Linney in it.) 


Celine Sciamma follows her most acclaimed work (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, already placing high in this decade’s Sight and Sound poll) with a deceptively simple fantasy about memory and motherhood that ends up one of her more conceptually ambitious films. As usual, she builds a fully realized world built out of a few essential components, only this time with a playfulness-bordering-on-whimsy that’s difficult to pull off (but rest assured, she does.)


Makes a lasting impact for the striking, evocative landscapes, the performances and the confirmation that an isolated place, no matter how striking or evocative can be heaven for a few days and deadening for an eternity.


An immensely likable Finnish indie dramedy which portrays female teen relationships with a genuineness that’s instantly winning—up there with the likes of OUR SONG and GHOST WORLD (though far sweeter and less acerbic.) 


“You’ll be fine, it will pass, you’ll get used it,” our protagonist is dutifully told in this purposely disorienting but intriguing, unclassifiable reverie from Argentinian director Ana Katz.


Set in a near-future where dreams are taxed by the government, I knew I adored this film about ten minutes in when the title card appeared (let’s just say it involves an ice cream cone.) 

15. ALI & AVA

From the director of THE ARBOR, it has a good beat and you can dance to it (to quote American Bandstand.) Also gratifying to see Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook cast as unconventional romantic leads.


A sort of autobiography relayed in carefully chosen fragments, it plays like BOYHOOD condensed to ninety minutes but with four different actors instead of one (because it wasn’t shot over a dozen years.)


Rian Johnson can make as many of these as he likes as long as he keeps assembling dynamite casts and giving Daniel Craig-as-Benoit Blanc phrases to drawl like “Jared Leto’s Hard Kombucha.”


Divided into a very Godard-ian twelve chapters with a prologue and epilogue, Joachim Trier’s latest plays with form and genre; it also verges on precious at times only to always snap back into sharp focus.


This is how you remake Fassbinder: cast a boisterous lead (Denis Menochet) who could play him in a biopic and include a glorious running sight gag like poor, dear, silent slave-twink Karl (Stefan Crepon).


Unlike SWISS ARMY MAN, this is silliness I can fully abide, thanks to Michelle Yeoh and the rest of its glorious weirdo ensemble. Nearly a BEING JOHN MALKOVICH for the internet age of info-overload.




















Favorite First Viewings of Older Films in 2022

My movie watching decreased by 30% in 2022—completely expected since between the pandemic and unemployment, 2021 was an anomaly of a year. If I learned anything from such circumstances, they helped me acclimate to watching more movies at home, as Letterboxd (now five years after I began using it) ended up a motivator to watch more movies, period. Here are the best older (pre-2021) films I saw for the first time this year.

1. KES

I’d seen a handful of Ken Loach pictures from this century but nothing earlier (unless you count the Poor Cow footage inserted into Soderbergh’s The Limey); I want to see more in 2023 as his second feature (from 1969) is simply masterful. An initially straightforward but increasingly resonant story about a boy and his bird, it captures something about the British working class arguably not even Loach contemporary Mike Leigh has ever replicated. Looking beyond archetypes, it subtly indicts an entire social structure while also locating a speck of transcendent beauty within it.


A teenager (River Phoenix) born into family forever on the run (due to a crime committed by his former hippie-activist parents) struggles to forge his own identity. While Phoenix’s death five years later makes it too easy to overrate his work, here (along with My Own Private Idaho) it’s sublime, as is Sidney Lumet’s direction—for that matter, so is the family sing-along to (of all things) a James Taylor song (too earnest to probably get away with in a movie today.)


In 2022, I kicked off an attempt to watch all the Best Picture Oscar winners I haven’t seen (about 40 or so) over the next few years; this is the best of the five I’ve made it through so far. Viewing this pre-code film was like trying on a vintage coat that fits beautifully: you’ve experienced such level of comfort before (via all the ensembles that followed from Robert Altman to Wes Anderson) but its age, finery and grace render it all the more satisfying.


I admired Slate film critic Dana Stevens’ new book about Buster Keaton—not enough to make my top ten this year, but at least it encouraged me to seek out the major works of his I’ve missed. This one in particular also landed dead-center on my radar after it cracked the latest Sight and Sound poll’s top 100. It’s 45 minutes long, just at that breaking point to distinguish a feature from a short, and it would be peak Keaton even if it didn’t have the best chase scene of all time.


David Cronenberg came back with the good-enough Crimes of The Future this year; if you liked it, chances are you’ll love this. Building on the body horror/tech-nerdery of Videodrome, it’s a feat of camera trickery but also a deep dive into all of the unsavory obsessions that makes his characters (and for all we know, the director himself) tick. Also, watching Jeremy Irons perform mouth-to-mouth on himself (or at least his body double) is a very Special Moment.


Alternate title: Women’s Lib Rules. Agnes Varda was a treasure for many reasons, not least of which was that she made narrative films (Cleo From 5 To 7) as genuine and engaging as her documentaries (The Gleaners And I). This hails from a somewhat undervalued period between those two peaks; however, its dissection and celebration of feminism and abortion rights is obviously as relevant as ever and that she fashions it with whimsy and humor doesn’t make it any less powerful than a more outwardly darker work like Never Rarely Sometimes Always.


This came as a recommendation from former Boston Globe critic Ty Burr when it aired on TCM (it’s not streaming anywhere); I want to rewatch it in a cinema when I next have a chance. Although King Vidor’s film about society, peer-pressure and collectivism looks and feels the near-century old that it is, it doesn’t matter: great art endures when it retains a strong resemblance to the present moment in premise and concept if not in its physical aesthetic.


The idea of a criminal posing as a member of the clergy isn’t new; to frame it as an identity crisis and a genuine attempt at redemption rather than just for laughs, however, sets up a tightrope walk for this Polish film’s protagonist, who lives out his selfish fantasies while also becoming a more active presence for good in the world. And yet, there are no easy resolutions and the film zags when you expect it to zig without losing focus or purpose.


I often think of the late 1980s as a particularly fallow period for cinema, but this is the third 1988 film in this top ten and it’s a glorious action-comedy, like Lethal Weapon but with brains and far more nuanced dialogue and character development. Also, it greatly helps that Robert De Niro (so good at comedy when given a good screenplay!) and Charles Grodin are as inspired and sublime a pairing as Lemmon and Matthau, Pryor and Wilder, Tracy and Hepburn.


Long available for whatever reasons I suspect are firmly kept locked up in the Paisley Park vault, this concert film to complement Prince’s landmark 1987 double album of the same name has, like so much since his untimely death, reemerged. As a “director”, the Purple One was obviously no Jonathan Demme, but this, made at his absolute fucking peak (at least artistically), should be as well-known as Stop Making Sense. The choreography is almost as amazing as the outfits, which are almost as wonderful as the music.


Birth, Blue Collar, Chocolat (1988), Darling, Fort Tilden, The Godfather Part II (!), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), Jaws(!!), Once Upon A Time In America, ‘Round Midnight, The Secret of Roan Inish, The Sisters Brothers, Splendor In The Grass, Time Piece*, Titicut Follies, A White, White Day

(*A short presently streaming on Mubi and a must-watch for any Jim Henson fan.)

Vive L’Amour

BEST RE-WATCHES (not including anything for 24 Frames):

Appropriate Behavior, The Boy Friend, Delicatessen, Dick, Ed Wood, Hairspray (1988), Knives Out, The Last Days of Disco, Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979), Out Of The Past, Phantom Thread, The Shop Around The Corner, Something Wild, The Sweet Smell Of Success, Vive L’Amour, Written On The Wind

Worldbuilding: The Best TV of 2022

Somebody Somewhere

I dutifully post top ten lists of favorite albums, books and movies every year; you’d think I’d do the same for TV, but I’ve only tried it once, back in 2013, roughly when the term “Peak TV” entered the parlance (although streaming was relatively new with Orange Is The New Black in its first season.) My tendency to not formally keep track of shows I watched is likely what prevented it from becoming a tradition; an endless number of platforms, limited series, and erratic scheduling (I haven’t been excited about “The New Fall Season” in well over a decade) didn’t help, either.

This year, I started a spreadsheet listing every new series and every new season of returning series that I watched, along with a second tab of new shows/seasons I hoped to watch (I made decent progress on the latter, even if I never got around to a dozen new-ish shows ranging from For All Mankind to Fleishman Is In Trouble.) Rather than roll out a top ten accompanied by capsules for each title, here’s a simple list (with the platform each show aired on), followed by a longer essay.


Top Ten TV Series of 2022:

  1. Severance (Apple TV)
  2. Reservation Dogs (FX)
  3. Better Call Saul (AMC)
  4. Somebody Somewhere (HBO Max)
  5. Barry (HBO Max)
  6. The Rehearsal (HBO Max)
  7. The White Lotus (HBO Max)
  8. The Sandman (Netflix)
  9. Minx (HBO Max)
  10. Heartstopper (Netflix)

This year, I bit the bullet and subscribed to HBO Max indefinitely (as opposed to my usual month or two at a time)—a wise investment, since its shows make up half the list (even if they foolishly got rid of Minx in Dec.) Neither The White Lotus’ highly anticipated second season nor Barry’s even longer-awaited third season disappointed—in the latter’s case, it was the show’s best yet, further blurring what genre it was (Sitcom? Harrowing Crime Drama? Absurdist Tone Poem?) while giving Sarah Goldberg a slow-burn of a trajectory the elevated her performance to the same level of excellence as Bill Hader, Anthony Carrigan and a never-better Henry Winkler. I’m still on the fence whether The White Lotus’ Sicilian jaunt was better than the original Maui season, but one can’t accuse creator Mike White of cashing in or resting on his laurels (or Aubrey Plaza or Jennifer Coolidge, for that matter.) Hacks’ second season retained everything great about the first (plus Laurie Metcalf and Susie Essman) and just narrowly missed the top ten.

Getting back to Minx—what a well-cast and conceived period piece about feminism, journalism and sex (props to Starz for saving the show, which had nearly finished production on a second season when HBO Max’s parent Warner Discovery pulled the plug.) The Rehearsal was also a triumph, both exactly what one would expect from a follow-up to Nathan For You and so much more, almost like Synecdoche, New York transformed into an ongoing quest that never fully lays down all its cards. My favorite new show on the streamer, however, was Somebody Somewhere, a somewhat unlikely vehicle for the usually bawdy comic performer Bridget Everett—it valued community and the importance of cultivating dreams like no other show since my beloved, gone-too-soon Lodge 49.

Although Netflix still often stresses quantity over quality, it premiered two new series (both adapted from graphic novels) that made my list. Heartstopper I instantly fell for with its well-cast leads, gentle demeanor and its comprehension (along with the streamer’s) that the world was more than ready for a nuanced gay teen romance. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, on the other hand, took a few episodes to connect with—understandable, given that nearly each one could be the seedling for a different branch of a show. Headier and riskier than say, Stranger Things, it’s a compelling vortex if you happily give yourself over to getting lost in it.

Breaking Bad’s final season topped my 2013 list; this year, its spinoff/prequel’s final season comes close. Overall, Better Call Saul is the better show in that I’d much rather watch it again in its entirely than its predecessor (also, Kim Wexler is more fascinating a parallel protagonist than Jesse Pinkman.) While the final run of episodes might’ve been tighter (Carol Burnett or not), that it ends up a show about redemption puts the entire series in a class with The Americans and Mad Men.

Reservation Dogs has potential to end up a show of such distinction. I began watching the first season (which aired in 2021) in late summer and after a typically embryonic pilot, the show’s rhythms clicked into place but continued to evolve. By the first season’s end, it revealed itself as a show about grief as experienced by four Native American teenagers and their extended community, which gradually expanded in the second season, building worlds upon worlds for a people whose story the medium had previously at best, ignored (and at worst, misrepresented); that it does so by forgoing sanctimony for a more complex mix of emotions and tones makes it nearly the best series currently airing.

Severance, however, is something else. Nearly Netflix’s opposite, Apple TV seems to value quality over quantity: DickinsonMythic QuestLootBad Sisters, even Ted Lasso (we’ll just ignore The Morning Show) are all personal projects that reward the time put into them but Severance defies categorization. Tempted to compared it to Twin Peaks, I knew better, remembering when I likened the unclassifiable Lodge 49 to Northern Exposure—it hints at an overarching sensibility but is still entirely its own thing. The Office meets The Twilight Zone doesn’t do it justice, either. Talk about building one’s own universe—the production design is as distinct (and as radically different from) a Wes Anderson film, yet it doesn’t overshadow the emotional beats of its slippery narrative or fiercely dedicated performances from Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, et al. Each episode both a gift and a puzzle, it is the one show from 2022 I want to re-watch right now because perception of it shifts continually, like if The Good Place was sci-fi/thriller instead of a sitcom. Hoping the second season, to air later this year sustains and further enhances what the first one assembled without faltering and/or withering.

Our Flag Means Death

Honorable Mentions:

Abbott Elementary*, Documentary Now!, Ghosts, Hacks, A League of Their Own, The Marvelous Ms. Maisel, Only Murders In The Building, The Orville: New Horizons, Our Flag Means Death, The Righteous Gemstones, Russian Doll, Search Party, Wednesday, What We Do In The Shadows

(*watched the first season (early 2022) but not the second yet)

Haven’t Finished the Current Season, But Am Invested:

Bad Sisters, Derry Girls, Loot, Physical, Welcome to Chippendales

Favorite Directors

Most years, my film group conducts a poll amongst its members. In the past, we’ve determined our all-time favorite films of a particular genre (horror, documentary, animation) or other categorical distinction (remakes and sequels, foreign language, black-and-white.) For the first time, this year’s list is centered on people rather than films. One would think it a breeze to curate a list of just 25 or 50 directors; my original long list ended up past the 150-mark. We were allowed to include up to 100, which is what my ballot below has. The first 30 or so are the most important; the placement of almost anyone beneath is a little more arbitrary.

In curating my list, I thought about whom I’d most like to see on the group’s list which is chiefly why Agnes Varda ended up at #3 – French, female, equally adept at documentary and fiction, she’s the sort of revered talent (that might not necessarily be a household name) that the group was created to promote and highlight. I also wanted to talk up my favorite LGBT directors which accounts for half of my top ten. My first draft placed the ever-dependable, ever-unique Tsai Ming-liang at top but in the end, I couldn’t deny giving it to the artist I wrote my Master’s thesis in Film Studies on.

The thing with all-time-best-of lists is that they could credibly go on for days. What favorite filmmakers of yours missing from the 100 below would you have included?

  1. Derek Jarman
  2. Tsai Ming-liang
  3. Agnes Varda
  4. Paul Thomas Anderson
  5. Wes Anderson
  6. Robert Altman
  7. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  8. David Lynch
  9. Todd Haynes
  10. Pedro Almodovar
  11. Michael Powell
  12. Guy Maddin
  13. Mike Leigh
  14. Atom Egoyan
  15. Claire Denis
  16. Hirokazu Kore-eda
  17. Sarah Polley
  18. Yasujiro Ozu
  19. Terence Davies
  20. Celine Sciamma
  21. Wong Kar-wai
  22. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  23. Alfonso Cuaron
  24. Richard Linklater
  25. John Cassavetes
  26. Jane Campion
  27. Martin Scorsese
  28. Chris Marker
  29. Kelly Reichardt
  30. Zhang Yimou
  31. Joanna Hogg
  32. Andrey Zvyagintsev
  33. Jonathan Demme
  34. Werner Herzog
  35. Bob Fosse
  36. Abbas Kiarostami
  37. Andrea Arnold
  38. Spike Lee
  39. Jacques Tati
  40. Bong Joon-ho
  41. Edward Yang
  42. Joel Coen
  43. Andrei Tarkovsky
  44. Douglas Sirk
  45. Jean-Pierre Melville
  46. Hou Hsaio-hsien
  47. Michael Haneke
  48. Maya Deren
  49. Hayao Miyazaki
  50. Orson Welles
  51. Albert Maysles
  52. Jean-Luc Godard
  53. Michelangelo Antonioni
  54. Jim Jarmusch
  55. Kogonada
  56. Andrew Haigh
  57. Lee Chang-dong
  58. John Waters
  59. Jafar Panahi
  60. Buster Keaton
  61. Frederick Wiseman
  62. F.W. Murnau
  63. Nicholas Ray
  64. Sofia Coppola
  65. Joachim Trier
  66. Alfred Hitchcock
  67. Jean Renoir
  68. Ingmar Bergman
  69. Yorgos Lanthimos
  70. Krzysztof Kieslowski
  71. Whit Stillman
  72. Wiebke von Carolsfeld
  73. Xavier Dolan
  74. Fernando Eimbcke
  75. Marielle Heller
  76. Olivier Assayas
  77. Jia Zhangke
  78. Andrew Bujalski
  79. Josh and Benny Safdie
  80. Peter Strickland
  81. Lynne Ramsay
  82. Miranda July
  83. Roy Andersson
  84. Woody Allen
  85. Francis Ford Coppola
  86. Alexander Payne
  87. Leos Carax
  88. Robert Bresson
  89. Francois Truffaut
  90. Debra Granik
  91. Satoshi Kon
  92. Greta Gerwig
  93. Billy Wilder
  94. Preston Sturges
  95. David Cronenberg
  96. Ernst Lubitsch
  97. Stanley Kubrick
  98. Nicole Holofcener
  99. Howard Hawks
  100. Nuri Bilge Ceylan