PRINT December 2016

Film: Best of 2016

Amy Taubin

Bruce Conner, Breakaway, 1966, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 5 minutes. © Estate of Bruce Conner.

1 “BRUCE CONNER: IT’S ALL TRUE” (Museum of Modern Art, New York) MoMA delivered for Conner with this staggering retrospective that underscored the reciprocity between his moving-image and static work by giving seven films optimum projection within the 250-piece exhibition.

“Bruce Conner: It’s All True” is currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, through January 22, 2017.

2 & 3 MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins) and TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade) The two best films of the year could not be less alike except in their embrace of unconditional love, briefly experienced in childhood, then denied, betrayed, and rediscovered by burdened, imperfect adults in moments of pure radiance. Fairy tales, perhaps, but what we desire beyond reason.

4 EVERYTHING ELSE (Natalia Almada) The simplicity of the filmmaking and the subtlety of observation in Almada’s first fictional narrative allows this double portrait of a person (a middle-aged female government clerk) and a place (Mexico City) to emerge in all its personal, social, and emotional complexity.

5 I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (Raoul Peck) Giants of the civil rights struggle—Martin, Malcolm, and Medgar—are filtered through the voice of James Baldwin, whose unfinished book on the three men is the primary source of this powerfully layered, poetic documentary.

Elite Zexer, Sand Storm, 2016, 2K video, color, sound, 87 minutes. Layla (Lamis Ammar).

6 O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (Ezra Edelman) Nearly eight hours is not a minute too long for this complex portrait of O. J. Simpson, the man and the image, shown in the context of the historical forces that produced him and our far-from-fixed responses to his trial and its outcome.

7 MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA (Dash Shaw) The alt-graphic novelist brings his associative, subjective, tender, and terrifying visual storytelling to an animated feature that rivals the best Japanese anime but couldn’t be more all-American.

8 TEMPESTAD (Tatiana Huezo) The stories of two women whose lives were nearly destroyed by the corruption of the Mexican government and its systemic collusion with the drug cartels are told almost entirely in voice-over. A stunningly specific exposé.

9 SAND STORM (Elite Zexer) Freedom is tantalizingly close for the daughter of a bedouin family living in the desert in southern Israel, but her love for her mother (Ruba Blal-Asfour—superb) and sisters, virtual captives in their tradition-bound village, puts her in an irresolvable double bind. A carefully observed, impassioned first feature.

10 COMMAND AND CONTROL (Robert Kenner) A documentary thriller about our US-based nuclear arsenal, past and present, this reconstruction of a 1980 near-disaster of epic proportions is more gripping and terrifying than any fiction film you might have seen this year or likely will see in the near future.

A contributing editor of Artforum and the author of Taxi Driver (BFI, 2000), Amy Taubin served on the selection committee for this year’s New York Film Festival.