Year in Film: Cinema 2007

A bevy of top 10s, rants, and raves
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COVER STAR RICHARD WONG'S VIEW OF 2007

I feel like I've only seen about 10 films this year, so my list would basically be No Country For Old Men, I'm Not There, and Beowulf (two of those movies were painful, they were so aesthetically pleasing — guess which ones). But I'm going to say Paranoid Park was a huge influence on me this year. The risks it took and its loose narrative and utter disregard for convention were extremely inspiring. I saw it in Toronto at a press screening, among all the jabbering sales agents and distribution reps, and it still managed to drop my jaw — despite the guy next to me answering his phone midway through, telling the guy on the other line how "half baked" the movie was. Afterward I talked to a fellow aspiring filmmaker about the film, and he told me how much he disliked it because he thought it was a "mess." Exactly. It feels like a rough cut, only not — a work in progress, but that's the point. Perhaps that's why I identified with it so much. Besides, maybe a little messiness is not such a bad thing to embrace right now.

Richard Wong is the director and producer of Colma: The Musical.

JEM COHEN'S FAVORITE MOVIE MOMENT

James Benning's Ten Skies at New York's invaluable Anthology Film Archives: with a description like a parody of avant-garde impenetrability ("Ten shots of the sky — feature length"), it sounds daunting. Instead, it was an experience of mysterious joy that brought me back to why movies are entertaining and why seeing them can be so communal. After a few restless, fidgety minutes, both audience and film hit a groove so sublime that I kept laughing with pleasure. Each sky has its revelations and dramas, each viewer "makes" their own film, but in a shared hallucination that filmmakers and venues rarely allow, much less encourage. Sure, we've all seen the sky before, but when's the last time you fell in so deeply and for so long, undistracted yet free to drift, stunned by both the thing itself and the amazing mirror of moving pictures? And I love that Benning says it's a political film, "the opposite of war."

Jem Cohen (www.jemcohenfilms.com) is the director of Instrument, Benjamin Smoke, Chain, Building a Broken Mousetrap, and other films.

VAGINAL DAVIS'S FLESH FOR LULU: A LETTER FROM TEUTONIA

So glad I live in Berlin as an expat, far away from icky, tired Los Ang, that sad, pathetic film industry towne. When I worked for the Sundance Film Festival in programming I watched what seemed like a zillion of the same kinds of films. This year I created (with the art kollective Cheap) the Cheap Gossip Studio installation as part of the Berlin Film Festival. It was housed in the atrium of the Kino Arsenal. Film historian Marc Siegel brought Callie Angel out to show some rare, seldom-screened Andy Warhol films, as well as Jerry Tartaglia, who restored Jack Smith's noted oeuvre. I even got to meet my sexy feminist heroine, Jackie Reynal of the Zanzibar movement, and Phillip Garrel, who brought his delicious young thrombone of a son, the actor Louis Garrel.

During the year, I started a new monthly performative series at Kino Arsenal called "Rising Stars, Falling Stars." It featured experimental silent classics from filmmakers like Louis Delluc, Man Ray, and the grandmama of the avant-garde, Germaine Deluc.

A lot of filmmakers send me rough cuts of their new films hoping I will write something on my blog, which gets a million readers a day. I just saw Bruce La Bruce's allegorical zombie flick Otto; or Up with Dead People, and it's beyond brilliant, and I am not saying that just because I have starred in Bruce's other films Super 8 1/2 and Hustler White or because he directed my latest performance piece, Cheap Blacky.

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