The Best Films of 2018

Written by Mike Lyon on April 16th, 2019

1. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi Gan, China)

2. Touch Me Not (Adina Pintilie, Germany)

3. High Life (Claire Denis, France)

4. Manta Ray (Phuttiphong Aroonpheng, Thailand)

5. Hotel by the River (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

6. An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, China)

7. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)

8. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)

9. Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland)

10. Holiday (Isabella Eklöf, Denmark)

The Best Films of 2017

Written by Mike Lyon on December 31st, 2017

1. Félicité (Alain Gomis, France / Senegal)

2. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, Italy)

3. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece)

5. Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike, Japan)

6. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia)

7. The Square – (Ruben Östlund, Sweden)

8. The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki, Finland)

9. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, UK)

10. L’amant double (François Ozon, France)

The Best Films of 2016

Written by Mike Lyon on January 6th, 2017

1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, Germany)

2. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, United Kingdom)

3. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil)

4. After the Storm (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)

5. The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit, Netherlands)

6. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, United States)

7. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, South Korea)

8. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)

9. We Are the Flesh (Emiliano Rocha Minter, Mexico)

10. Aloys (Tobias Nölle, Switzerland)

The Best Films of 2015

Written by Mike Lyon on December 29th, 2015

1. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)

2. Love (Gaspar Noè, France)

3. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan)

4. Chi-Raq (Spike Lee, United States)

5. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Turkey)

6. Taxi (Jafar Panahi, Iran)

7. Office (Johnnie To, Hong Kong)

8. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson, Canada)

9. Yakuza Apocalypse (Takashi Miike, Japan)

10. Crumbs (Miguel Llansó, Ethiopia)

The Best Films of 2014

Written by Mike Lyon on January 4th, 2015

1. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

2. Li’l Quinquin (Bruno Dumont, France)

3. Still the Water (Naomi Kawase, Japan)

4. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)

5. The Midnight After (Fruit Chan, Hong Kong)

6. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, United States)

7. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, Australia)

8. Gone Girl (David Fincher, United States)

9. To Kill a Man (Alejandro Fernández Almendras, Chile)

10. Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, Canada)

The Best Films of 2013

Written by Mike Lyon on December 31st, 2013

1. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong)

2. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, United States)

3. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy)

4. Camille Claudel 1915 (Bruno Dumont, France)

5. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark)

6. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, France)

7. Paradise: Hope (Ulrich Seidl, Austria)

8. Bastards (Claire Denis, France)

9. Yokomichi Yonosuke (Shuichi Okita, Japan)

10. Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, United States)

Guest Critic – Mike Polizzi – Spring Breakers & Gravity

Written by Mike Lyon on December 30th, 2013

Spring Breakers is a kind of Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio, a play on the rites of Spring tuned through the mythology of the early aughts with Britney and K-Fed styled mythic lovers. What it accomplishes, in all its loopy, repetitive, and dayglo-ness, is a pretty quick excavation of entitlement, class and race around the business of having fun in America. James Franco’s nearly Floridian, almost consistently accented sleazing of the mantra, “Spriiiiing Breeeeeak,” wedges itself deep within the inner ear. Expect it to completely uncoil and leak out into some bikini clad silhouette grease spot on your pillow by the time you’re 82. The movie gets in your head. The structure is rhythmic and supple, hypnotizing and intoxicating. It is spring break, the music video, with all the menace and predation left in, and enough of a brain to keep the camera rolling through to the flip side of the fun, where—depending on your outlook—the fun ends or it really begins.

God bless Gucci Mane—for his name and his ice cream coned face. Franco provides the K-fed, gun-fellating (it happens) skeez and Mane provides the aura of gangsta authenticity, the glimpses into the business of fun. It’s enough to see the strippers working in the club to understand the price of the freedom the college students feel when they flash for the camera. But the movie deals in doubles, archetypes and personas and the girls we’re following are different than the co-eds at the end of the beer bongs. They do that too, but they robbed to get there. They each have their own limit to how far they’ll go. They peel off one by one in layers, like Britney’s morality, dignity, and sanity until only two are left.

In Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese originally wanted Travis Bickle’s final shoot out to happen in an all black brothel. Harvey Keitel was brought in to play the pimp late when they worried the scene might provoke a race riot (hey). That final scene is re-imagined here, as a video game cum rap video mash up in St. Petersburg, FL where machine gun carrying bikini-girls in pink ski masks provide something close to the first person POV (the camera hovers just behind them, their masks glow an eerie black-lit blue) and take out the all black personnel in Gucci Mane’s outfit, then Gucci Mane himself (he has another name in the movie, but why? Gucci Mane!). The girls ride the same wave of entitlement that brought them to spring break and follow the ride all the way through. Their sense of entitlement is up against everyone else’s and the girls win Spring Break. For nerds like me, who never really went to Spring Break and always thought it sounded like an invitation to the douche-Reich beach games, Korrine shows why it is important to pay attention. Spring Break is a rite of passage for a huge number of kids in America and it is so because in offering the opportunity to lose yourself in unbridled fun, it crystalizes all of the stuff of our culture: greed, gluttony, classism, racism, and sexism—it’s what we become when the rite is over.

How? Admittedly, whenever I watch a movie in the theater in 3-D that looks as good as this movie did, I lose a portion of my critical apparatus, but still—unbelievable. Cuarón’s films have impressed me in the past, even The Prisoner of Azkaban sticks out as my favorite of the Potter films, but this was something new. Gravity takes the weightlessness of space as its story, its setting and its main character and articulates lavishly. Sandra Bullock is central and enthralling, but also ballast for our capacity to view what the camera is up to here. Aside from the technical brilliance and breathlessness of the movie’s momentum, Cuarón even manages to fit in references, mostly silent nods, towards filmed weightlessness that preceded—aside from 2001 and Apollo 13, the image above comes from a scene that moves from frantic to sensual with such smoothness, I found myself wondering why I was thinking about Barbarella.

Space babies, physics, ballistics and the excellent recreation of evolution that occurs in the lake, this is what I’ve wanted from movies. For an added slap in the face, the plot revolves around a present-day space mission that goes wrong. The technology presented for space travel and inhabitation is all the humdrum stuff that the evening news rarely shows. Zero G? Ho Hum. It’s a shame it takes a stray Russian rocket to make the plot—I’d be happy hanging around and listening to astro-Clooney talk about the time in the bar with the girl in New Orleans, while Sandy Bullock stifles her nausea for a year as long as the camera keeps winding around. But as an assessment of where the culture of movie making is? I can see Cuarón’s point—why haven’t things moved forward? We have the tools and yet we have spent the last decade watching film impress its physicality on us to try to show its continued relevance. This may be why he chose to keep Sandy as his ballast. Her performance and physical struggle is as difficult and visceral as any heroine from a horror flick. So he’s speaking in part through one of the primary milieus of the past decade but doing so in the hopes of pushing it forward. This is the first confident digital movie I have seen and I can see why he took up the gauntlet here and pushed the envelope. To continue to do interesting things, our culture has to move forward, and our culture is predicated by and large by what we choose to watch.

-Mike Polizzi blogs at Grid Politics; find him on Twitter @mike_polizzi

The Best Films of 2012

Written by Mike Lyon on November 30th, 2013

1. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, Japan)

2. Amour (Michael Haneke, Austria)

3. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, United States)

4. Barbara (Christian Petzold, Germany)

5. Vulgaria (Pang Ho-cheung, Hong Kong)

6. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, Portugal)

7. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, United States)

8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, France)

9. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, Canada)

10. Eega (S.S. Rajamouli, India)

The Best Films of 2011

Written by Mike Lyon on January 2nd, 2012

1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, United States)

2. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)

3. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, United States)

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, United Kingdom)

5. Wu Xia (Peter Chan, Hong Kong)

6. Guilty of Romance (Sion Sono, Japan)

7. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, Hungary)

8. Pina (Wim Wenders, Germany)

9. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, United States)

10. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, Denmark)

The Best Films of 2010

Written by Mike Lyon on January 1st, 2011

Comrades! Once again, the list-making season is upon us, and I must answer the call. As per usual, for a film to be eligible it must have received a theatrical release in its country of origin in 2010. Of course, these lists are never immutable, but here are ten great films that defined 2010 for me.

1. Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, France)

2. I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, Italy)

3. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, France)

4. White Material (Claire Denis, France)

5. The Social Network (David Fincher, United States)

6. Restrepo (Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger, United States)

7. Hahaha! (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

8. Outrage (Takeshi Kitano, Japan)

9. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, United States)

10. Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio, Mexico)