COLUMNS

  • Top Ten

    JOHN WATERS’S BEST FILMS OF 2021

    Film director John Waters’s debut novel, Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), will be published in May 2022.

    1

    ANNETTE (Leos Carax) 

    The best movie of the year is an insane, over-the-top, and thankfully self-indulgent Sparks Brothers musical about an angry macho performance artist, his opera-diva girlfriend, and their daughter, who is somehow born a puppet. See it by yourself so no one you know can possibly ruin this nutcase masterpiece. Oh yeah—it’s really long.

    2

    SUMMER OF SOUL (...OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson)


    Beautifully edited

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  • Top Ten

    J. HOBERMAN’S BEST FILMS OF 2021

    J. Hoberman is a recovering film critic. His monograph on Duck Soup as an artifact of the ’30 and ’60s, an adolescent fetish, and a foretaste of Donald Trump, is newly out.

    1

    BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN (Radu Jude)

    The past eighteen months have been a blur, but the movie with the most relentless focus on the way we live now is this Berlin Golden Bear winner. Jude’s previous films mainly explored aspects of the Romanian past. Bad Luck Banging, a frenzied farce about a sex tape gone viral amid the pandemic, is a period piece about the present moment.

    2

    MEMORIA (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

    The

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  • Top Ten

    JAMES QUANDT’S BEST FILMS OF 2021

    James Quandt is a film critic and curator based in Toronto and the editor of monographs on Robert Bresson, Kon Ichikawa, Shohei Imamura, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

    Thanks to another shut-in year, my Top Ten is culled entirely from the superlative 2021 New York Film Festival.

    1+2

    INTRODUCTION
    and IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE (Hong Sangsoo)

    Both films commence with a prayer, but while the former proceeds to play Hong’s usual narrative games of Chutes and Ladders, the latter deepens into a poignant contemplation of regret and mortality. 

    3

    THE ROUND-UP (Miklós Jancsó)


    The restoration of the year. Jancsó’s

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  • Top Ten

    CASSIE DA COSTA’S BEST FILMS OF 2021

    Cassie da Costa is a staff writer for Vanity Fair and the commissioning editor for Another Gaze film journal.

    1

    THE LOST DAUGHTER (Maggie Gyllenhaal)

    Actress, producer, and now director Maggie Gyllenhaal has given everything she’s got to her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s lesser-known novel. And what we get is a film unafraid to blow up the premise of maternity in the very act of celebrating it. 

    2

    DRIVE MY CAR (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

    One of those films you almost don’t want to say anything about, because to experience it is to be thrust outside of typical experience. Hamaguchi has adapted Haruki

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  • Top Ten

    ALAN LICHT’S BEST MUSIC OF 2021

    Alan Licht is a musician, author, and curator based in New York.

    1

    BILL ORCUTT, A MECHANICAL JOEY (Fake Estates)

    Orcutt built this whole album from a sample of Joey Ramone counting off “One, two, three, four, five, six,” relentlessly looping and permutating it for thirty-five phantasmagoric minutes. A conceptual masterstroke, it pinpoints and illuminates the Ramones’ inner minimalism.

    2

    75 DOLLAR BILL (People’s Pavilion, Columbus Park, New York, August 29)

    The sound clash that wasn’t: An expanded version of this percussion-and-guitar duo inadvertently faced off against a nearby troupe of Chinese

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  • Top Ten

    JJJJJEROME ELLIS’S BEST MUSIC OF 2021

    JJJJJerome Ellis is a Black disabled animal, a stutterer, and an artist. His album and book The Clearing were released last month by the Poetry Project, NNA Tapes, and Wendy’s Subway.

    1

    EMILY RICE, MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE I’M A LONDONER (First Artists Recordings)

    I was grateful to witness Rice, who is known primarily as a composer of emotionally deft scores for television and film, shift her musical focus inward on her debut album.

    2

    THE HAWTPLATES, MAKE ME DOWN: SONGS FOR MAKING IT THROUGH ALIVE (4Be)

    On this EP, The HawtPlates—a performance trio formed by family members Jade Hicks, Justin Hicks, and

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  • Top Ten

    SASHA GEFFEN’S BEST MUSIC OF 2021

    Sasha Geffen is a writer based in Colorado and the author of Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary (University of Texas Press, 2020).

    1

    —-_—___, THE HEART PUMPS KOOL-AID (Orange Milk)

    The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid uses abundant negative space to sound out the melancholy of Midwestern geography—the stretches of highway that connect nodes of activity, the time and gas they devour. Focusing on the emptiness between objects, Kool-Aid tracks how even the most embodied sounds quickly decay into silence. 

    2

    BODY MEAT, YEAR OF THE ORC (self-released)

    Christopher Taylor doesn’t so much write songs

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  • Top Ten

    HARMONY HOLIDAY’S BEST MUSIC OF 2021

    Harmony Holiday is a writer, archivist, and multi-genre artist living in Los Angeles. Her fifth volume of poems, Maafa, was published this month by Fence Books.

    1

    GABRIELS, LOVE AND HATE IN A DIFFERENT TIME (self-released)

    These accusatory soul ballads, which swoon with the erotics of unconditional forgiveness in a voice that envelops like a hand as a blooming rose reaching out from the middle of the throat—this is the only band I need for a while, a oneness trio. Vocalist Jacob Lusk gives me hope that we won’t have to harbor nostalgia for the textures of the 1960s forever. Tenderness toward

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  • Diary

    Networking

    DIS programs a collision course in Geneva

    THE EXHIBITION “MIGHT FEEL A LITTLE LIKE A FUN HOUSE,” Lauren Boyle tells me at the Centre d’art Contemporain Genève. Boyle, alongside Marco Roso, David Toro, and Solomon Chase, is part of the collective DIS, which, with the Centre’s director, Andrea Bellini, has curated this year’s Biennale de l’Image de Mouvement, titled “A Goodbye Letter, A Love Call, A Wakeup Song” and billed as “an exit from our human-centered, capitalist death drive.”

    In preparation for it, each of the show’s three floors was divided into viewing rooms connected by dark, twisting halls. Visible from circular windows, these

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  • Film

    Stage Coach

    Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s dramas of disconnection

    IN THEIR EARLY DAYS, films weren’t as concerned with the realistic elaboration of action as with the various devices writers, directors, cinematographers, and production artists used to convey ideas and emotion through moving images. Theatricality—what Roland Barthes called a “sensuous artifice”—was at the basis of these movies, tasked not with recreating verité on screen but with artfully construing the psyche. Shadows and bursts of light, recurring objects, long takes, static camerawork, expressive acting, and striking (though not necessarily beautiful) faces seared images into a viewer’s

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  • Performance

    Test and Trace

    On the evanescent poetry of Performa 2021

    STRANGE THAT IT'S BEEN years since I last saw live performance. But everyone was exclaiming this now-familiar platitude as they busily embraced on the sidewalk at the intersection of Rivington and Orchard the past October, during the collective reunion which took as its backdrop and pretext Kevin Beasley’s The Sound of Morning. The first of eight commissions realized for this year’s Performa Biennial, the performance began almost unnoticeably. One of Beasley’s collaborators flung a deflated basketball into the air; another began methodically disassembling a black metal barrier that had been

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  • Interviews

    Willie Birch

    Willie Birch on making art a neighborhood affair

    Throughout his multifarious six-decade career, Willie Birch has mined creative traditions ranging from European painting to Yoruba spirituality to conjure visions of the rich culture of New Orleans, as in the series of charcoal-and-acrylic grisaille streetscapes on view through January 23, 2022, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art as part of “Prospect.5: Yesterday We Said Tomorrow.” Additionally, an exhibition devoted to new paintings and sculptures by the artist is on display at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts until January 7, 2022. In his Seventh Ward studio, Birch and I spoke about the

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