COLUMNS

  • Film

    John Waters

    JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (Bruno Dumont) An insanely radical heavy-metal grade-school religious pageant that is sung in French from beginning to end. The actors themselves seem like they might burst out laughing, but this is no joke. It’s the best movie of the year. You’ll hate it.

    AMERICAN ANIMALS (Bart Layton) A true-crime story with a brilliant ensemble cast and the real-life culprits and victims edited in, commenting throughout on the action. Adolescent group madness is a beautiful thing to watch.

    NICO, 1988 (Susanna Nicchiarelli) A small, sad, fearless biopic that asks

    Read more
  • Film

    Amy Taubin

    1 ADRIAN PIPER (Museum of Modern Art, New York; curated by Christophe Cherix, Connie Butler, and David Platzker, with Tessa Ferreyros) Thanks not only to the great Funk Lessons video, 1983–84, but to the way the entire installation let the viewer journey through the narrative of her life in art, Piper’s retrospective was, for me, a movie and more.

    THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) As befits a dying planet, in Godard’s scorched-earth film, montage stutters, memory frays, and yet the will to look, listen, and make art survives.

    ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón) A masterpiece of old-fashioned narrative

    Read more
  • Film

    Ed Halter

    O HORIZON (The Otolith Group) The most immersive cinematic work to date by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun, this sensuously philosophical portrait of the West Bengal educational center Santiniketan also serves as a waking dream of alternative modernism.

    “BEFORE PROJECTION: VIDEO SCULPTURE 1974–1995” (MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA and SculptureCenter, NY) One of the finest moving-image gallery exhibitions in recent memory, curator Henriette Huldisch’s eye-opening show of video art from the cathode-ray era conveys the history of the medium with an all-too-rare precision, mingling

    Read more
  • Film

    J. Hoberman

    WORMWOOD (Errol Morris) I saw this six-episode, four-hour-long mix of documentary interviews and dramatic reconstructions in mid-December 2017 and have been haunted by it ever since. Wormwood delves into the notorious case of army biologist Frank Olson, who became the unwitting guinea pig of the CIA’s LSD experiments and in 1953 dove to his death from a hotel window. An examination of obsession as well as a chilling Cold War mystery, Wormwood entwines Olson’s story with that of his brilliant son Eric, who has devoted his life to (or thrown it away on) an attempt to know the unknowable.

    LE

    Read more
  • Film

    Melissa Anderson

    ZAMA (Lucrecia Martel) A significant departure for Martel, this bewildering, enthralling adaptation of fellow Argentinean Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 novel of the same name, the tale of an abject late-eighteenth-century magistrate, brilliantly diagnoses the sickness of empire.

    EIGHT HOURS DON’T MAKE A DAY (Rainer Werner Fassbinder) RWF’s proletariat paean from 1972–73—the first of several TV miniseries that the prodigious New German Cinema godhead would direct—stands as his warmest, most optimistic project, filled with utopian promise and a dazzling constellation of characters.

    Read more
  • Film

    James Quandt

    DEAD SOULS (Wang Bing) Wang’s epic eight-hour-long documentary about the Maoist reeducation camps of the 1950s collects the clandestine testimony of survivors in a heroic act of historical witness.

    2 THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) A surging requiem for a world addicted to its own annihilation.

    UN HOMME MARCHE DANS LA VILLE (1950) (Marcello Pagliero) The revelation of the mini-retrospective dedicated to the Italian-French auteur Pagliero at II Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, this neorealist noir set in Le Havre deserves classic status.

    THOMAS BAYRLE (New Museum, New York) The films and videos

    Read more
  • Music

    Sasha Geffen

    1 SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDEs (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) An emphatic departure from her initial singles, SOPHIE’s debut album deploys the producer’s unique pop vernacular to probe questions of identity, survival, and freedom. Plasticky synthesizer sounds warp around vocals from Cecile Believe as the record proposes an ecstatic vision of utopia beyond the body’s historical confines.

    SERPENTWITHFEET, “CHERUBIM” (Secretly Canadian/Tri Angle) A love song doesn’t have to be light. It can dent the earth with the weight of its singer’s devotion. In “cherubim,” serpentwithfeet renders queer

    Read more
  • Music

    Vivien Goldman

    1 LUDWIG GÖRANSONN FEAT. BAABA MAAL, “WAKANDA” (Marvel) It is ironic that it took a film (Black Panther) about a fictional country to make much of America embrace the idea of Africa. Nonetheless, Maal’s sustained griot vibrato summons and enthralls on Göransonn’s theme song “Wakanda.” All bow to the handy magic of the imagination.

    CARDI B, BAD BUNNY, AND J BALVIN, “I LIKE IT” (Atlantic) The surge in rich-world collaborations with Afrobeat and reggaeton artists de-exoticizes the squirmy tag “world music.” Are Brits and Yanks really out of this world? Debates aside, it’s joyous when phenom Cardi

    Read more
  • Top Ten

    Polly Watson

    1 BABY GRANDE, 1975–77 (HoZac) Chicago’s HoZac Records specializes in glammy power pop—modern (Mama, Velveteen Rabbit) and master-level (check out the incredible Julian Leal!). This album of previously unreleased tracks finds the Church’s Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes wasting their pre–Blurred Crusade (1982) talent on derivative, stomping glam, and it is fucking AMAZING!

    2 SNAIL MAIL, LUSH (Matador) Just this year, Sunflower Bean’s twenty-two-year-old Julia Cumming sang of her age as being one at which a woman is viewed as “busted and used.” Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, at nineteen, probably

    Read more
  • Music

    Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

    TIRZAH, DEVOTION (Domino) Devotion is refreshingly tender and an exciting departure from Tirzah’s more club-forward work. Repeat listening reveals the intimate complexities of her understated voice, a perfect pairing for Mica Levi’s restrained production.

    JULIA SANTOLI’S PERFORMANCE OF SIREN SORE: BURNING BODY OF LOVE WITH ZACH ROWDEN (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, July 13) Santoli and Rowden really did something special that evening in July. When Santoli dragged a metal ring across Issue’s marble floor, creating otherworldly feedback, my hair stood on end. The frisson of sonic potential

    Read more
  • Books

    Ralph Lemon

    In early 2018, I read three books at the same time, all of them propositions for freedom, all contemplating its seeming impossibility and the inspired labor of working toward the impossible—of believing.

    From J. Krishnamurti’s On Freedom (1991): “Freedom is not from something. It is an ending [of knowledge]. Do you follow?” No, not quite. But since I was eighteen I’ve trusted, without submitting to, most of what Krishnamurti has written. (I fashion that I am an innocent.) Angela Y. Davis’s Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016) is

    Read more
  • Books

    Heike Geißler

    Anne Boyer is an expert in fresh ruptures, new avant-gardes, manifestos, and life (or some such thing). Her book A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (Ugly Duckling Presse) helps me to regain focus when my sight is blurred. It helps me to believe again in tenderness when I shout for radicalization and acts of revenge. Anne Boyer writes: “Many lambs work for years to steal fire but do not know what use a lamb has for flames.” I am such a lamb. Forlorn. Misled. Raised on its predators’ rules. But it is never too late to learn when we have the right handbooks. The handbooks that perform their knowledge,

    Read more