COLUMNS

  • Film

    James Quandt

    James Quandt, Senior Programmer at TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto, is the editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Austrian Film Museum, 2009) and Robert Bresson (Revised) (Indiana University Press, 2012).

    1

    LUC TUYMANS (Palazzo Grassi, Venice) and THE WHITE ALBUM (Arthur Jafa)

    Tuymans’s glorious retrospective of paintings dense with references to the cinematic and Jafa’s justly consecrated video in the Arsenale provided the high points of this year’s Venice Biennale.

    2

    VITALINA VARELA
    (Pedro Costa)

    Darkness visible. Abandoned by her husband’s death, the eponymous Cape Verdean woman, who returns from

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  • Film

    Melissa Anderson

    Melissa Anderson is the film editor of 4Columns.

    1

    LA FLOR (Mariano Llinás)

    For nearly fourteen hours, this protean magnum opus, held together by an extraordinary quartet of actresses (Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa, and Laura Paredes), immerses us in the pleasures of densely detailed fiction.

    2

    A BIGGER SPLASH (Jack Hazan)

    Several titles on my Top Ten list are new restorations of older films I saw for the first time in 2019; none seduced me quite like Hazan’s beautiful 1974 docufiction about David Hockney, then in the midst of romantic agony and creative fervor.

    3

    ATLANTICS (Mati Diop)

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  • Film

    J. Hoberman

    J. Hoberman is a recovering film critic. 

    1

    STATE FUNERAL (Sergei Loznitsa) 

    The official footage documenting the pageantry around Joseph Stalin’s death—reorchestrated here by Loznitsa—is a totalitarian spectacle that, in its interplay of leader and mass, is a sort of found Triumph of the Will starring a “dead god” (Loznitsa’s phrase) in a carnation-red coffin. The Trial (2018), another Loznitsa film, might serve as a prologue—long-lost footage from an early show trial that was evidently shot for an audience of one still-living god.

    2

    MARTIN EDEN (Pietro Marcello)

    Bursting with ideas, Marcello’s

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  • Music

    Jace Clayton

    Jace Clayton is an artist and writer based in New York also known for his work as DJ /rupture.

    1

    KODAK BLACK, “ZEZE,” FEAT. TRAVIS SCOTT AND OFFSET (Atlantic)

    This was a terrible year to be a person of color in America. In this sense, it was like all other years. Rap sonics bypass language to evoke this exhaustion in a form that allows for joy. Here, the sweet-sad beat crafted around a hesitant steel-drum melody underpins the rappers’ ambivalence regarding success under such conditions: “All my niggas locked up, for real, I’m tryna help ’em / When I got a mil’, got me the chills, don’t know what

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  • Music

    Polly Watson

    Polly Watson is a former entertainment editor for High Times. She currently performs with 1-800-BAND

    1

    PINOCCHIO, PINOCCHIO (Toxic State)

    Eno-tinged NYC art-punk weirdness characterized by janky guitar work and almost operatic vocals—courtesy of West Coast hurricane Mary Jane Dunphe—that is shockingly sophisticated in its naïveté.

    2

    THIN LIZZY STAMP

    Ireland is releasing two one-euro stamps in honor of the (contested) fiftieth anniversary of their hard-rocking native sons, one featuring the cover of the 1979 album Black Rose and the other a portrait of iconic bassist and front man Phil Lynott.

    3

    NASTIE

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  • Music

    Byron Coley

    Byron Coley is a music critic, a poet, the editor of the Bull Tongue Review, and a proprietor of Feeding Tube Records in Florence, MA. His most recent books are Defense Against Squares (L’oie De Cravan, 2017) and 1979 Songbook, coauthored with Joanne Robertson (Tenderbooks, 2019).

    1

    YOKO ONO

    While Ono released no music this year, she is still Number One. Why? Maybe it has to do with the boss commission she just finished for the newly renovated MoMA. Or maybe it’s just because.

    2

    THE FLESH EATERS, I USED TO BE PRETTY (Yep Roc)

    This double album, recorded by the 1981 iteration of a long-lived LA band,

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  • Music

    Sarah Hennies

    Sarah Hennies is an independent composer and performer of experimental music based in Ithaca, NY, and a recipient of the 2019 foundation for contemporary arts grants to artists award. Her new album, Reservoir 1: Preservation, is out now on Black Truffle Records.

    1

    DANIEL ROMANO, FINALLY FREE (New West)

    The absurdly prolific chameleonic songwriter—and self-proclaimed “gardener of the landfill”—returns with his ninth album in as many years. Romano recorded Finally Free after a long stint of listening to the Incredible String Band. Check out the breathtaking opening track, “Empty Husk.”

    2

    PANCRACE,

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  • Performance

    Jennifer Krasinski

    A PERFORMANCE must be believed to be seen. I likely hang its appearance on an act of faith because I—raised Catholic in the Midwest—received my first exposure to theater by watching men in elaborately brocaded dresses conduct mass every Sunday. (As it turns out, church was also my primer on camp.) Applause was inappropriate, prayer was encouraged, and many years later the two otherwise adverse gestures still share a synapse in my head, one standing in for the other—sometimes.

    Which brings me to the frigid Friday in January when I arrived at a Shabbat dinner hosted by comedic singer-songwriter

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  • Books

    Terry Castle

    Benjamin Moser’s Sontag: Her Life and Work (Ecco) succeeds as it does—magnificently, humanely—by displaying the same intellectual purchase, curiosity, and moral capaciousness to which his subject laid so inspiring and noble a claim over a lifetime. Susan Sontag was a difficult, galvanic presence in American arts and letters for half a century, and her biographer takes her measure with unfailing intelligence, honesty, and sympathy.

    So far, so blurby. (Yet heartfelt.) But there was a glaring problem with Sontag, of course: the fantastical scarecrow unpleasantness she could turn on anyone—friend,

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  • Books

    Pamela M. Lee

    How to model kinship when Jim Crow demands otherwise? What constitutes intimacy for the legatees of race slavery and social death? The “revolution in a minor key” of Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Stories of Social Upheaval (W. W. Norton) is not led by the proper names of history—traditionally a mythomaniacal retread of a heroic actor across the world’s stage. Instead, Hartman elaborates a counternarrative centered on young black women and genderqueers living in New York and Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century and forging their errant paths. For

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  • Books

    Gary Lutz

    I’ve been swooning over the gusto and graces of Peter Schjeldahl’s prose ever since his days at the Village Voice, so in my estimation, Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light, 100 Art Writings, 1988–2018 (Abrams) is a gift for anyone alert to the sorts of miracles that can be wrought within the span of a single thrillsome sentence. Whether working as a miniaturist within the paragraphic confines of the Goings on About Town section of the New Yorker or dilating into the larger space of the essay (with a word count often not much higher than that of the average op-ed tantrum), Schjeldahl, a virtuoso of compressed,

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  • Books

    Imani Perry

    I held Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House (Grove Press) tenderly in my hands even before I knew the subject matter. After I read the first section—a narrative map that leads to the yellow house, her family’s home—I wept. You might not know how rare it is to see Black living laid out on paper, but it is. When it is done, and done beautifully, you have a masterpiece. Think Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Edward P. Jones’s The Known World.

    See what you have been trained not to see, and you will understand much more about life and the world. The yellow house sat in New Orleans East, which held and

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