1. Geralyn Huxley
Associate Curator of Film and Video, The Andy Warhol Museum
American Splendor (above) 03, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini). A great screen bio of groundbreaking comic artist Harvey Pekar.
The Brown Bunny (USA, 2003, Vincent Gallo). A lingering camera and long takes make the climax of this road movie a compelling and memorable experience.
Debt Begins at 20 (USA, 1979, Stephanie Beroes). Closing this year's Three Rivers Film Festival, this short film refreshingly revives the old days of the punk scene in our city.
Elephant (USA, 2003, Gus Van Sant). Van Sant's unique style creates a powerful and unsettling evocation of the mindset of alienated American teens.
Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) (USA, 2002, A.J. Schnack). It's fun to enter the witty world of They Might Be Giants.
Gozu (2003, Japan, Takashi Miike). This humorously surreal, straight-to-video yakuza film is almost Lynchian with its freakish characters and fantastic plot twists.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (USA/New Zealand, 2003, Peter Jackson). I love these books, and I'm so happy to not only not be disappointed by a literary adaptation but to actually admire it.
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003, USA, Thom Andersen). An entertaining and epic study of Los Angeles that presents myriad points of view of this fascinating city, including Andy Warhol's.
The Man Without a Past (2002, Finland/Germany/France, Aki KaurismÃ¤ki). A warmly humorous observation on starting over that looks at the bright side of living in a shipping container.
School of Rock (above) (USA, 2003, Richard Linklater). A great and funny addition to one of my favorite genres, rock 'n' roll movies.
2. Brady Lewis
Filmmaker and Pittsburgh Filmmakers director of education
American Splendor. It was formally daring and innovative as commercial releases go, and Pittsburgh's magnificent Larry John Meyers had a bit part.
Ararat. Atom Egoyan unveils the 20th century's first genocide, the Ottoman Turks' government-sponsored murder of one million of their Armenian subjects. The elliptical narrative is built around modern characters and a film within a film. It is really a movie about the nature of history, memory, perspective and interpretation.
The Decay of Fiction. This completely unique original vision showed at Filmmakers and at Carnegie Mellon with the artist, Pat O'Neill, present. It is an accessible "experimental" work that general audiences could love, if there were only a way to lure them to the theater.
Elephant. Gus Van Sant's newest will open in Pittsburgh soon. It's a Columbine story told with a gliding camera from multiple points of view. It was shot in 35 mm in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio that is usually reserved for television programs.
Lost in Translation. Sofia Coppola's second feature was better than her first, The Virgin Suicides, which was interesting but not as focused as this one.
S21, la Machine de Mort Khmer Rouge. A French documentary in which Cambodian survivors and torturers talk to each other, 25 years later, about what they both did and why.
Talk to Her. Another memorable Almodovar film.
Thirteen. (above) This is a movie that anyone with kids should see at their own peril. It was co-written by a 13-year-old girl and shot in super-16 mm film in a documentary style.
The Triplets of Belleville. (above) Triplets was one of the hits of November's Three Rivers Film Festival. It's an inventive surrealist animation that will show up at the Regent Square Theater in late January.
Zero Day. Someone called this the "anti-Elephant." It's another Columbine story, but with a low, unpolished aesthetic. It was shot on mini-DV and uses the video look to its advantage, as it presents two boys' video diary leading up to their "zero day." It will show at the Melwood Screening Room early in 2004.
3. Jim Mueller
Filmmaker and programmer, Jefferson Presents ... and Mule-Kicked Visions
Mule-Kicked Visions Phantasmagorias. This was the fourth year that the projection team has put multiple film and video projectors to simultaneous use in the provision of psychedelic visual chaos-awe as accompaniment for live music. Particularly strong outings occurred at the Brewhouse in June with Midnight Snake, Oneida and Johnsons Big Band, and in September with Connelrad, the Working Poor and the Modey Lemon.
Lost in Translation (above)/The Matrix Revolutions. What made the appealing awkwardness of this double-feature bill even more appealing? Seeing it at my favorite movie theater, the Studio 35 brew-'n'-view in Columbus, Ohio. This allowed me to ponder exactly how much would one have to drink in order to be inebriated enough not to realize another movie was on once Lost in Translation ended and Matrix Revolutions began. Furthermore, does Scarlett Johansson put the Jo in my Hansson? Yes. Do I tear up with emotion when I see armies of giant robots battling? Yes.
Water Sark. Cameras and sound recorders are playthings, dammit! Play with them! ... like Joyce Wieland did in 1965. (Screened at Garfield Artworks by Jefferson Presents ... in October)
Actions in Action (by the Halflifers: Anthony DiCzenza and Torsten Burns). Fifteen minutes of Science Fiction + Improv Acting + Chipmunk Voices + Trippy Colors + Jackassery + Lotsa Snacks = the kind of social commentary that makes me want to smear food all over myself and others every time I pick up a camera. (From '97, screened at Garfield Artworks by Buffalo's Lindsay Sampson through Jefferson Presents ... in December.)
PJ Vidz vol.1 (by Jacob Ciocci and his sister and Ben). Anyone reared on video games and cable TV must watch this hilarious half-hour of found video clips and super-sugary flash animation intermixed with the consummate channel-flicker's ADD aesthetic. (Screened at Garfield Artworks By Jefferson Presents ... in November)
Home Movie Day. Mysterious composition and intentionless in-camera editing predominate in the amateur non-stylings of the home-movie maker. Though there was an open call for home movies, only a few people brought out their films. The films that did show up spanned seven decades and were completely fascinating. Hopefully next August more people will bring their old movies to Home Movie Day. (Organized by Joe Morrison and Greg Pierce at the Squirrel Hill American Legion in August.)
Lee's Dream. Brian Dean Richmond is so pure with the visual aspect of his heartfelt diaristic films that trying to describe them with words feels stupid and wrong. This six-minute movie, for which he teamed up with the city's most genuine songwriter -- Alan Lewandowski (Working Poor, Anita Fix) -- was no exception. (Screened at Garfield Artworks by Jefferson Presents ... in April.)
Pirates of the Caribbean (above)/Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Could a Johnny Depp kissing booth solve the city's financial woes?
Doubling. Watching Adam Abrams' five-minute movie is kind of like getting on a new amusement-park ride, only to realize that the ride consists of being shot out of a cannon through 10,000 television monitors with static playing on them. Then noise-smith Steve Boyle's live sound accompaniment swoops in like a swarm of hawks hell-bent on shoving their talons through your earholes so that they can do to the back of your eyeballs what Abrams is already doing to the front of them. Also the hawks are blowing subsonic farts against your temples. (Screened at Garfield Artworks by Jefferson Presents ... in September.)
Removed. Naomi Uman takes a couple of clips from some '60s softcore porn and physically bleaches the female sex object out of the film. The result is something like in the movie Cocoon when Steve Gutenberg's with that freaky glowing thing, except Uman's five-minute movie is more tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. (Made in 1999, screened at the Warhol in the spring and by Matt McCormick of Peripheral Produce at the Three Rivers Film Festival in November)
4. Bill O'Driscoll
Pittsburgh City Paper
Top Cinematic Experiences of 2003: A non-alphabetical, non-hierarchical, nondefinitive list
Divine Intervention. Politically charged and thoroughly entertaining, moving, funny and cinematically inventive, Elias Suleiman's take on life in occupied Palestine is damn near indispensable, both as art and as social commentary.
Ararat. Atom Egoyan digs into history, memory and movie-making in a story revolving around the set of a period film about Turkey's genocidal campaign against the Armenians.
The Pianist. Roman Polanski's epic of scaled-back proportions turns Holocaust-movie conventions upside-down (its protagonist never sets foot in a camp); Adrien Brody's fine performance secures its impact.
11' 09'' 01. What's wrong with American film distribution when an anthology of shorts by internationally respected artists, all on the theme of 9/11, gets hardly any theatrical play, and (as yet) not even a video deal? In Pittsburgh, we can thank the Warhol for booking this, if only for a night: Films by Ken Loach, Shohei Imamura, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Amos Gitai, Samira Makhmalbaf and more explore Sept. 11 in smart, moving and unexpected ways, and from a world-is-watching perspective you'd think everyone would want to see.
A Talking Picture. It's a Sept. 11 movie, too, and in the most back-door and excruciatingly sorrowful way. Portugal's nonagenarian master Manuel de Oliveira offers 90 minutes of kind, cultured, pleasantly dull talk disguised as a European travelogue. Only in retrospect can you understand the concluding sucker punch.
Kurosawa at the Melwood. This anthology of the Japanese master's films starring Toshiro Mifune included not only big names such as Rashomon and Seven Samurai, but also important if seldom-screened earlier works (Stray Dog and Drunken Angel) and demi-classics (Throne of Blood). A choice and uncommonly thorough look at an artist whose elegance, craft and commitment endure.
Two Experimental Classics. If Stan Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving (1959) wasn't the most beautiful film I saw this year, then it was Gregory Markopolous' Bliss (1967). Some avant-garde films age poorly; not so with Brakhage's lyrical yet thoroughly grounded expressionistic portrait of his wife before, during and after childbirth. Brakhage died this year, and a Three Rivers Film Festival tribute including a few early works, plus some incredible late-career paintings on film, showed why he'll be missed. Meanwhile, Markopolous' study of a Greek church (like all his films, unseen in the U.S. for decades) screened at the Warhol; it was ravishing enough to stun.
Mystic River (above). Clint Eastwood's neighborhood crime drama is a fine film, and proves mainstream movies with a name director and big stars needn't be watered-down treacle with fake happy endings.
Spider. Like he'll do, David Cronenberg plays with one's head in this stripped-down and unsettling drama that sticks with you like a bad dream about your worst nightmare.
Gerry. Some movies don't sink in right away -- so here's a mea culpa for my puzzled/negative review of this curious experiment from Gus Van Sant. Quite unexpectedly, its minimalist Beckett-goes-widescreen story of two clueless dudes lost in the desert haunted me like few other films this year.
5. Tom Poole
Executive Director, Pittsburgh Community Television (PCTV-21)
1. Donnie Darko
2. Mulholland Drive. Saw it on DVD.
3. The Landlord (1970). A friend taped it for me. Hadn't seen it in 30 years -- still a powerful film.
4. Strange Fruit and ...
5. Two Towns of Jasper. Both documentaries say all too much about race relations in this country.
6. thru 10. I live for HBO Sundays:
Six Feet Under
Curb Your Enthusiasm< body>