The word “resistance” has been central topolitical, intellectual, and, for that matter, moral life in the past twoyears, as policies of a sadistic fury and bullying remarks to match have issuedfrom the seat of American power.
Resistance takes many forms, includingcinematic ones. But the cinema of resistance isn’t necessarily overtlypolitical (though it may well be that, too—as in many of this year’s bestfilms). Movies of resistance offer, foremost, aesthetic resistance: they resistthe making of images and the telling of stories that take their own power forgranted. They resist clichés of audiovisual thought, which are as desensitizingto the individual mind as they are deluding in the forum of social debate. Theychallenge received ideas of what stories and images are, and challenge theirmakers’ own artistic practices; they expand viewers’ imaginations, deepen andsensitize their emotional responses, and create forms of perception that go farbeyond the events depicted in the movies to become enduring experiences inthemselves, enduring incarnations of their time.
By contrast, in the rush to be of themoment, in the self-conscious and vain exertion to capture the times,filmmakers often make movies as disposable as an op-ed, a commentary thatconverges with the averages and approximations of prevailing attitudes ratherthan the intimate specificity of experience. It’s easy for filmmakers to treatpolitical matters as cynically as they might approach any dramaticsubject—perhaps even easier, because they’re easier to tailor to theexpectations of a targeted audience. Many of the year’s most ostensibly“political” films have earned critical praise, they’ll likely get awards, andthey can be counted on to have as little effect on current-day politics asthey’ll have on the history of cinema.
This is all to say that 2018 has been abanner year for movies, but you’d never know it from a trip to a local multiplex—orfrom a glimpse at the Oscarizables. The gap between what’s good and what’swidely available in theatres—between the cinema of resistance and the cinema ofconsensus—is wider than ever. I’ve played a little game with my list this year:after composing it, I rummaged through the box-office numbers to see where eachof the films ranked among the six hundred and eighty-two films released to datethis year, how much money each took in, and how many theatres each one wasreleased in. Three of the year’s best were shown in more than a thousandtheatres (and one on the list is the biggest box-office hit of the year) butthe others had releases that ran from limited to virtually nonexistent. Some ofthe best movies in the year don’t register at all in terms of ticket sales;they may have played at only one venue for a week, and reported no numbers fortheir brief runs. Though this came as a shock, it should be no surprise:because of the conceptual and sensory extremes that the best new movies offer,they’re also often a tough sell in theatrical release.
In some cases, streaming has filled the gap. Several of the year’s best movies, such as “Shirkers” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” are being released by Netflix at the same time as (or justafter) a limited theatrical run. Others, which barely qualified as havingtheatrical releases (one theatre for a week), are now available to streamonline, on demand, and are more widely accessible to viewers (albeit at home)than films playing at thousands of multiplexes. Yet an impermanence, a threatof disappearance with the flick of a switch, hangs threateningly overindependent films that are sent out on streaming (a problem that came to thefore this fall, with the shuttering of FilmStruck, which made a hefty batch ofCriterion and TCM films available to stream).
This crisis of access has taken new formsin the era of streaming, but it’s in many ways old news; because of changingavailability, one generation’s classics are another’s obscurities. But thereare also signs of progress. The increasing diversity and originality ofartistic ideas in movies is a result of the increasing (though not sufficientlyrapidly increasing) diversity in the range of filmmakers, actors, and othercollaborators working today. The ostensibly great cinematic eras of the past(like the New Hollywood of the seventies) went hand in hand with the virtualsilencing and the invisibility of many of the most original filmmakers of thetime—many of them, unsurprisingly, women and people of color. Today, along witha more varied group of filmmakers working, there is a more varied range ofpossibilities for their work to be seen and also a more varied range of critics(with a more varied range of platforms) who are likely to bring such work intothe spotlight.
The current cinema is built on the absencesof the past—and their ghostly emanations are also now taking cinematic form.2018 has been a year of phantom cinema, of film traces that were lost in timeand are only now, finally, finding their embodiments. Orson Welles’s “The OtherSide of the Wind” (which is on Netflix) and Sydney Pollack’s (rather, ArethaFranklin’s) “Amazing Grace” were shot in the nineteen-seventies, completed onlyrecently, and released this fall. The late Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah: FourSisters” was shot in the seventies, and he supplemented and edited thoseinterviews recently (he died in July; it’s his last film). Sandi Tan’s“Shirkers” brings together the recovery of her unfinished film from thenineteen-nineties with the lives of its makers and its complex course to itspresent form. These belated projects are representatives for the voices, pastand present, that haven’t come to the fore yet, the rediscoveries—or, rather,reparations—still awaiting their enactment.
P.S. There are still some movies awaitingtheir year-end releases that I haven’t been able to see yet—plus, of course, Ihaven’t seen all of the year’s nearly seven hundred new releases—so this listmay well have some additions.
Photograph by Ashley Connor / OscilloscopeLaboratories
“Madeline’s Madeline” (Josephine Decker)
A furious, visionary drama of an outer-boroughteen-age girl (Helena Howard), whose conflicts with her mother (Miranda July)are offset by her uneasy bond with a theatre director (Molly Parker).
“Let the Sunshine In” (Claire Denis)
Juliette Binoche stars in the Frenchdirector’s film about a middle-aged woman’s romantic adventures, which refractspersonal experience in the form of a modernistic screwball comedy.
“Zama” (Lucrecia Martel)
The bureaucratic and intimate frustrationsof a Spanish magistrate in a remote Argentine outpost in the eighteenth centuryinspire rarefied passions and a highly original style to match.
“Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?” (Travis Wilkerson)
This first-person documentary is a bitterlyrevelatory work of history, a monstrous family story, and an unflinching viewof current politics.
“Sorry to Bother You” (Boots Riley)
A comedic outburst of political imaginationand visionary fury, centered on a young Oakland telemarketer (LakeithStanfield) whose job conceals grand schemes of grotesque evil.
“BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee)
This drama, based on the true story of twopolice officers in Colorado Springs who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, is amongLee’s most politically passionate films.
“Werewolf” (Ashley McKenzie)
With ferociously intimate images, tenselycontrolled performances, and a spare sense of drama, this début feature, abouttwo young drug addicts in Nova Scotia, conjures a state of heightenedconsciousness.
“Mrs. Hyde” (Serge Bozon)
This giddily imaginative reworking ofRobert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale stars Isabelle Huppert as a scienceteacher whose identity is changed, along with her teaching style, when shebecomes a subject of her own experiment.
“The Old Man & the Gun” (David Lowery)
Robert Redford delivers a glorious, slyperformance in a movie that masks its idiosyncrasy in brisk and breezystorytelling.
Photograph from Netflix / Everett
“Shirkers” (Sandi Tan)
This energetic and insightful first-persondocumentary is centered on the efforts of teen-agers in Singapore in the earlynineteen-nineties to make a madly ambitious independent film.
“Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc” (Bruno Dumont)
A portrayal of Joan of Arc’s childhood as astarkly inventive, ecstatically energetic rock opera, filmed on location in rawand rustic landscapes.
“Claire’s Camera” (Hong Sang-soo)
The South Korean director condenses a grandmelodrama of work, love, and art into a brisk roundelay of chance meetings andintimate confrontations, set amid the Cannes Film Festival; Isabelle Huppertstars.
“Infinite Football” (Corneliu Porumboiu)
This warmly comedic yet calmly analyticaldocumentary, about a Romanian bureaucrat who wants to change the rules ofsoccer, subtly confronts the country’s political history.
“Monrovia, Indiana” (Frederick Wiseman)
In this documentary, his forty-fourthfeature, Wiseman visits a small Midwestern town where the winds of change meetthe chill of death.
“Support the Girls” (Andrew Bujalski)
An exuberant yet intricate comedy-drama,set behind the scenes of a Texas sports bar and starring Regina Hall as itscompassionate and all-seeing manager.
“Sollers Point” (Matt Porterfield)
The title of this drama refers to aBaltimore neighborhood where a young man (McCaul Lombardi) is threatened bywhite supremacists he knew while he was in prison.
Photograph from Fox Searchlight / Everett
“Isle of Dogs” (Wes Anderson)
This stop-motion animated comedy, aboutchildren’s efforts to thwart the extermination of dogs, is Anderson’s thirdfilm in a virtual trilogy of revolt.
“Golden Exits” (Alex Ross Perry)
Life and work stressfully intersect in thistaut, intimate melodrama of families and friends in the comfortable confines ofCobble Hill.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Marielle Heller)
Melissa McCarthy brings passion andpoignancy to the role of the real-life Lee Israel, a biographer who, infinancial distress, convincingly fabricates letters in the names (and voices)of famous writers and sells them.
Photograph from Netflix / Everett
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
A six-part Western anthology, centered upona common theme: the Wild West’s relentless cruelty, wanton violence, deadlyrecklessness, and cavalier abuses of unchecked power.
“I Am Not a Witch” (Rungano Nyoni)
In this derisive and empathetic drama, aquiet eight-year-old Zambian girl is accused by her fellow-villagers of being awitch, and is sent to an encampment of witches.
“A Bread Factory” (Patrick Wang)
Tyne Daly stars as the founder of aperforming-arts space in a small New England town that is threatened with atakeover by celebrity artists with Hollywood connections.
“The 15:17 to Paris” (Clint Eastwood)
A drama of gonzo casting, in which thethree young American men who thwarted a terrorist attack aboard a train inFrance, in 2015, play themselves.
“The Rest I Make Up” (Michelle Memran)
An intimate documentary portrait of theplaywright María Irene Fornés, whose bouts of memory loss prove to be the onsetof Alzheimer’s disease.
The Rest I Make Up
“If Beale Street Could Talk” (Barry Jenkins)
A virtual essay on the crushing legalmechanisms of racism and a first-person vision of the enduring force of historyare interwoven with a piercingly romantic dramatic adaptation of JamesBaldwin’s novel.
“Bisbee ’17” (Robert Greene)
This documentary, about the violentrepression of a 1917 strike in the copper-mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, isalso a work of fiction in the conditional tense, featuring local residents in areënactment of the historical events.
“First Reformed” (Paul Schrader)
Ethan Hawke plays an angry and bitterminister in a small and historic upstate New York church, who directs much ofhis bitterness at political leaders and much of it at himself.
“Gavagai” (Rob Tregenza)
A visually virtuosic ghost story, set inNorway, about grief, poetry, landscape, and emotional recovery.
Photograph by Matt Kennedy / Walt DisneyStudios Motion Pictures / Everett
“Black Panther” (Ryan Coogler)
A grandly mythical superhero drama thatconfronts modern political agonies in complex and resonant ways.
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” (RaMell Ross)
A virtually handmade, photographicallyinspired documentary about young adults living in small towns in westernAlabama.
“Minding the Gap” (Bing Liu)
A former teen skater in Rockford, Illinois,returns home to make a documentary about his longtime friends’ current livesand reveals harsh truths about their past and his own.
“Notes on an Appearance” (Ricky D’Ambrose)
This exquisitely stylized drama is set inNew York, in the present day, but it’s redolent of the tones, moods, andconflicts of earlier times—of a hothouse intellectual city and its enduringmythology.
“The Other Side of Everything” (MilaTurajlić)
A documentary about Srbijanka Turajlić, aSerbian opponent of Slobodan Milošević’s repressive and genocidal post-Yugoslavregime, directed by her daughter and centered on the political history of thefamily’s home.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” (Susanna Fogel)
The familiar plot of this action comedy,starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, is adorned with piquantly loopy,extravagant, and off-kilter details.
“Scarred Hearts” (Radu Jude)
A fanatically detailed, intellectuallyfurious drama, set in Romania, in 1937, about a young Jewish writer trappedbetween disease and Fascism.
“Pow Wow” (Robinson Devor)
This documentary, about residents of theCoachella Valley and its history, offers as much cinematic style as it doesinvestigative content.
Photograph from Alamy
“A Season in France” (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
The Chadian director dramatizes thebureaucratic sword of Damocles that is hanging over the heads of a family ofmigrants from the Central African Republic who are living in Paris.
“Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable” (Sasha WatersFreyer)
A documentary about the photographer,featuring audio recordings and also film clips of him at work.
“The Hate U Give” (George Tillman, Jr.)
This adaptation of a young-adult novel isthe story of a black family living in a predominantly black Georgianeighborhood and confronting legally enforced and socially reinforced norms ofracism.
“The Waldheim Waltz” (Ruth Beckermann)
A documentary about the AustrianPresidential elections of 1986, composed entirely of archival footage(including sequences filmed by the director, who was involved in protests atthe time).
答：影评人 [名] movie critic; 影评人[yǐn pín rén] movie critic