1. “Certain Women”
Kelly Reichardt’s film “Certain Women” is a small movie that follows the lives of three women living in rural Montana. They go to work. They try to build a house. They teach night classes. They drive hours through the night. And their seemingly “small” lives are made up of even smaller details. Take for example the painstakingly attentive way light is shot in the film: the dusty pale red light of a snowy morning, the migraine-inducing fluorescent buzz of strip lighting, the dripping yellow glow of street lamps late at night. These details expand to reveal the depths of hidden feeling. And by the end of the film, these women’s lives, their experiences, what they see and feel seem anything but minute.
Kirsten Johnson’s documentary “Cameraperson” begins with a black screen that says, “These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.” Johnson herself has worked as a cameraperson on multiple documentaries (Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour,” Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”). Her documentary “Cameraperson” is comprised of outtakes from her work as a cameraperson and home movie footage Johnson has shot of her family. It’s easy to describe this film as being akin to an essay, but it’s more like a poem, particularly in the way it’s structured. Each image reverberates into the next, with individual gestures, movements and glances entangling to form sequences. It’s a beautiful examination of not just how images mark us, but also how we mark images and what it means to bear witness to the world through a lens.
Jim Jarmusch invented hipsters. All of his films feature characters that are definitively cooler than you. Paterson is no different, starring Adam Driver as a bus-driving poet named Paterson in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. The town is also, coincidentally, the town where poet William Carlos Williams lived, worked and wrote his book of poetry entitled “Paterson.” The film covers a week in the life of Driver’s character, as he goes to work, hangs out with his adorable dog and adorable wife, and all the while writes poetry in a secret notebook. If there’s any film that proves the worthiness of everyday life as fuel for the best art, it’s this one.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say that if there’s one thing I wish I could forget it’s the memory of Anthony Weiner’s dick pics, which are etched into my mind. But I certainly don’t want to bleach my memory of the documentary “Weiner,” which is a hilarious and somewhat depressing account of Anthony Weiner’s second descent due to his inability to stop sexting. Weiner becomes a kind of tragic hero, a modern-day Oedipus who’s brought down by the most inherent flaw of them all: his own name.
5. “Love and Friendship”
I’m a sucker for any Jane Austen adaptation, and this movie is no exception to that rule. “Love and Friendship” is an adaptation of the little-known Austen novel “Lady Susan,” with Kate Beckinsale playing the delightfully manipulative titular character. Director Whit Stillman lends this film a certain quickness and lightness of tone that works wonders. I’d be hard pressed to find a film from this year this witty or fun. Beckinsale in particular is deserving of about 10 times more attention for her work here than she in reality got.