Top Ten By Year: 1930 – Poll Results

Previous Top Ten By Year Polls: 1925, 1958, 1978, 1992

Poll Rule Reminders: Participants could vote for up to 10 films; no more, but certainly less. Order was not required since it had no bearing on the results.)

I’m doing the Poll a bit earlier than I normally do. This is because I’m trying to spread out the Top Ten By Year posts a bit – and the only ones I can do that with without having seen all the films on my watchlist are Poster Highlights and the Poll. Plus, seeing everyone’s votes is also an opportunity for me to make any final additions to my watchlist (I made two based on people’s votes; Outward Bound and Raffles).

First off, thank you so much to everyone who voted! 1930 is such an absorbing year in cinema, and such an overlooked one to boot, so I wasn’t sure how many people would participate. Many of you gave a full top ten, and many others were kind enough to contribute a handful of passionate picks. All in all, 69 people voted for 79 different films!

Taking into account the Internet oversaturation of lists/listicles, I hope it’s clear that this project is anything but tossed off. The Top Ten By Year Project is an effort to reclaim what I love about lists in the first place. Seeing what makes the collective top ten is a lot of fun, but may I direct your attention to the full breakdown of votes and the individual ballots? My hope with these polls is that, in addition to planting seeds of anticipation for the related posts to come (What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1930: A Love Letter, Favorite Shots, and the Top Ten. Poster Highlights for 1930 can be found here), they mainly serve as a resource for anyone looking for new films to watch whether it’s from seeing:

a. what ‘Film Twitter’ collectively loves
b. more importantly, the films towards the bottom of the list, the ones you’ve never heard of that are begging for (re)discovery.
c. the individual ballots from people whose taste and knowledge you value (“I don’t know what this is, but if Labuza likes it, surely it’s worth a look!”)

So exciting to have first-time voters I’ve long admired such as Farran Nehme, The Nitrate Diva, and author Megan Abbott. Even filmmaker Anna Biller voted! Was also honored to have Miriam Bale, Richard Brody, and so many others whose contributions and tastes are so valued. Actually, all of you who voted!

Surprises? Disappointments? General thoughts? Leave your thoughts on the poll in the comments section!


POLL RESULTS – Top Ten By Year: 1930
L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age) (France / Buñuel) – 37 votes
Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) (Germany / UFA / von Sternberg) – 36 votes
All Quiet on the Western Front (US / Universal / Milestone) – 31 votes
4. Morocco
(US / Paramount / von Sternberg) – 27 votes
. Animal Crackers (US / Paramount / Heerman) – 25 votes
6. City Girl
(US / Fox / Murnau) – 24 votes
7. Zemlya (Earth) (Soviet Union / VUFKU / Dovzhenko) – 21 votes
8. Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) (Germany / Filmstudio Berlin / Siodmak, Siodmak, Ulmer, Zinneman & Gleise) – 18 votes
(8.) Sous les toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris) (France / Films Sonores Tobis / Clair) – 18 votes
10. Monte Carlo
(US / Paramount / Lubitsch) 13 votes

The Rest:
12 votes:
Le Sang d’un Poète (Blood of a Poet), The Dawn Patrol
11 votes: The Divorcee, The Big Trail
9 votes: Murder!, À propos de Nice (short)
8 votes: Borderline
7 votes: Madam Satan, Anna Christie (Brown version)
6 votes: Abraham Lincoln, Hell’s Angels, Sono yo no tsuma (That Night’s Wife)
5 votes: Prix de Beauté (Miss Europe), Ladies of Leisure, Our Blushing Brides, Laughter, The Big House 
4 votes: Westfront 1918, The Doorway to Hell
3 votes: Min & Bill, Liliom, Swing You Sinners! (short), Die drei von der Tankstelle (The Three from the Filling Station), Salt for Svanetia, The Bat Whispers, Outward Bound, The Unholy Three, Follow Thru
2 votes: Anna Christie (Feyder version), The Gorilla Mystery (short), Journey’s End, Paid, La Petite Lise (Little Lise), Fujiwara Yoshie no furusato (Home Town), The Golf Specialist (short), Let’s Go Native
1 vote: Das Lied ist aus (The Song is Over), Up the River, Whoopee!, Aimless Walk (short), The Sea of Ravens (short), Ein Lichtspiel schwarz weiss grau (Lightplay: Black/White/Gray) (short), Romance sentimentale (Sentimental Romance) (short), War Nurse, Studie Nr. 6 (short)
Barnacle Bill (short), The Royal Family of Broadway , Rakudai wa shitakeredo (I Flunked, But…), The Fire Fighters (short), Billy the Kid, Free and Easy , Au Bonheur des dames, Not So Dumb, Sins of the Children, The Flirting Widow, Hogaraka ni ayume (Walk Cheerfully), Another Fine Mess (short), The Devil’s Cabaret (short), Hell’s Heroes, Montana Moon, Fast and Loose, The Office Wife, Raffles, Her Man , Loose Ankles , King of Jazz, Sunny Skies , Let Us Be Gay , The Devil to Pay!


@fantasmascope (Emily of Femina Ridens):
Madam Satan, City Girl, Prix de Beauté, Borderline, People on Sunday, Das Lied ist aus, Girl with a Hatbox (I keep seeing this last one as 1927 so I won’t be counting it)

@alexkittle (Alex Kittle of and 366 Weird Movies):
Min & Bill, Madame Satan, Anna Christie, The Blue Angel, The Divorcee

@tnyfrontrow (Richard Brody of The New Yorker):
The Dawn Patrol, People on Sunday, City Girl, Abraham Lincoln, The Big Trail, The Blue Angel, Whoopee, Morocco, Under the Roofs of Paris

L’Age d’Or, The Blue Angel, Blood of a Poet

@PaulBoyne: (Paul Boyne of Infinite Crescendo):
1. The Blood of a Poet 2. Animal Crackers 3. All Quiet on the Western Front 4. L’Age d’Or 5. City Girl

Der Blaue Angel, People On Sunday, Zemlya (Earth)

Prix de Beauté, Madam Satan, City Girl, Liliom, Ladies of Leisure, L’Age d’Or

@Cinedaze (Paul Anthony Johnson of Film-Philosophy, Popmatters):
The Blue Angel, Morocco, Animal Crackers, Swing You Sinners, L’age D’or, All Quiet on the Western Front, Hell’s Angels, Ladies of Leisure, Murder!, Earth

@fishingwithnate (Nate Fisher):

@redroomrantings (Justine A. Smith of Vague Visages, Vice Canada, and Globe Arts):
1. City Girl 2. Morocco 3. Swing You Sinners! 4. All Quiet on the Western Front 5.Animal Crackers 6. The Divorcee 7. Anna Christie 8. The Blue Angel 9. Monte Carlo 10. Madam Satan

@railoftomorrow (Scott Nye, writer and podcast co-host at CriterionCast, etc.):
Blue Angel, Morocco, Blood of a Poet, Three From the Filling Station, City Girl, People on Sunday, Hell’s Angels, L’Age d’Or, All Quiet on the Western Front

@dsl89 (Daniel S Levine of Movie Mania Madness):
Animal Crackers, City Girl, The Dawn Patrol, Anna Christie (German!), Westfront 1918, The Big Trail, All Quiet on the Western Front

@TheEndofCinema (Sean Gilman of The End of Cinema; The George Sanders Show, and They Shot Pictures podcasts):
1. Morocco 2. The Dawn Patrol 3. People on Sunday 4. City Girl 5. Under the Roofs of Paris 6. The Blue Angel 7. Earth 8. All Quiet on the Western Front 9. The Big Trail 10. Animal Crackers

@48ONIRAM (Brian!):
L’Age D’or, Animal Crackers, The Blue Angel

@bmrow (Brent Morrow):
1. City Girl 2. Morocco 3. The Big Trail 4. Laughter 5. Murder! 6. L’âge d’or 7. Monte Carlo 8. The Dawn Patrol 9. Under the Roofs of Paris 10. Earth

@eyeshakingking (Keefe Murphy):
1. Earth 2. People on Sunday 3. L’Age d’Or 4. Borderline 5. Salt for Svanetia 6. Aimless Walk 7. À propos de Nice 8. City Girl 9. The Sea of Ravens 10. A Light Play Black White Gray

Min & Bill, Hell’s Angels

@glazomaniac (Sally Jane Black):
Romance sentimentale

People on Sunday, The Divorcee, L’Age d’Or

@willow_catelyn (of Curtsies and Hand Grenades):
Blood of a Poet, Monte Carlo, L’Age d’Or

@cinebeats (Kimberly Lindbergs of TCM and Cinebeats):
All Quiet on the Western Front, Anna Christie, The Bat Whispers, The Blue Angel, The Gorilla Mystery, L’Age d’Or, Madam Satan, Our Blushing Brides, Outward Bound, The Unholy Three

All Quiet, L’Age d’Or, Borderline, Dawn Patrol, Earth, Morocco, Blue Angel, Westfront 1918, Blood of a Poet, Murder!

@jasondashbailey (Jason Bailey of Flavorwire):
Animal Crackers ten times (note: I did not count Animal Crackers ten times)

Dawn Patrol, All Quiet on the Western Front, People on Sunday, City Girl, Blood of a Poet, Borderline, Earth, Journey’s End, Mickey Mouse’s Gorilla Mystery, aaaaannnd probaaaably Westfront 1918

@HellOnFriscoBay (Brian Darr of Hell on Frisco Bay):
Morocco, That Night’s Wife, City Girl, Big Trail, Blue Angel, Salt For Svanetia, Swing You Sinners, Studie n. 6, Earth, Liliom

@astoehr (Alice Stoehr of Pussy Goes Grrr, Movie Mezzanine, etc.):
L’Age d’Or, Barnacle Bill, Borderline, The Divorcee, Morocco

@FCardamenis (Forrest Cardamenis of Spectrum Culture, The Film Stage & Movie Mezzanine):
The Blue Angel, Morocco, That Night’s Wife, All Quiet on the Western Front, L’Age d’Or, Earth, and Salt for Svanetia

@jchristley (Jamie N. Christley):
1. L’Age d’Or 2. City Girl 3. Under the Roofs of Paris 4. The Royal Family of Broadway 5. I Flunked, But… 6. Morocco 7. Abraham Lincoln 8. Liliom 9. The Fire Fighters 10. That Night’s Wife

City Girl, Blood of a Poet, Age d’Or, Murder! Under the roofs of Paris, Billy the Kid, Morocco, Earth, Divorcée, Miss Europe (Prix de beaute)

@derek_g (Derek Godin):
Animal Crackers, L’Age d’Or

@rgodfrey (Ryan Godfrey):
The Blue Angel, Animal Crackers, Under the Roofs of Paris, All Quiet on the Western Front, L’Age d’Or, Free and Easy

@SchmanthonyP (Brian Schmid):
All Quiet on the Western Front, People on Sunday, Earth, L’Age d’Or, City Girl, Under the Roofs of Paris, The Blue Angel

@dvanhouw (Dave Van Houwelingen):
All Quiet on the Western Front, The Blue Angel, L’Age d’Or, Animal Crackers, Blood of a Poet, Under the Roofs of Paris

@oldfilmsflicker (Marya E. Gates of #AYearwithWomen, #Noirvember, Cinema Fanatic, Rotten Tomatoes, etc.):
À propos de Nice, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Big House, Der blaue Engel, The Divorcee, The Doorway to Hell, Hell’s Angels, Morocco, Our Blushing Brides, Paid

Animal Crackers, All Quiet on the Western Front

@DavidBlakslee (David Blakslee of Criterion Reflections, Criterion Cast) :
L’Age d’Or, All Quiet on the Western Front, Blood of a Poet, The Blue Angel, Borderline, Monte Carlo, Under the Roofs of Paris, People on Sunday

@labuzamovies (Peter Labuza, Author of Approaching the End, host of The Cinephiliacs. Critic for Variety, The AV Club, Little White Lies, etc):
La Petite Lise, The Dawn Patrol, Version, Walk Cheerfully, Home Town, A propos de nice, The Golf Specialist, Abraham Lincoln, Another Fine Case, Dizzy Dishes, The Devil’s Cabaret

L’Age d’Or, The Big Trail, The Blue Angel, Earth, All Quiet on the Western Front, Monte Carlo, Under the Roofs of Paris

@bybowes (Danny Bowes of Salt Lake City Weekly, and Indiewire):
All Quiet of the Western Front, Anna Christie, The Blue Angel, City Girl, The Divorcee, Earth, Hell’s Heroes, L’Age d’Or, Let’s Go Native, Madam Satan, Prix de beaute

@leggoet (Marvel Presents Salo):
1. L’Age d’Or 2. The Blue Angel 3. People on Sunday 4. A propos de nice 5. City Girl 6. Animal Crackers 7. The Big Trail 8. Under the Roofs of Paris 9. All Quiet on the Western Front 10. Borderline

@sarahnwondrland (my Aunt!):
1. The Divorcee 2. The Blue Angel 3. Animal Crackers 4. Morocco 5. Anna Christie

@mimbale (Miriam Bale, programmer and contributor to various publications including Film Comment and the New York Times):
Let’s Go Native, Outward Bound, The Dawn Patrol, The Blue Angel, Montana Moon, People on Sunday, Our Blushing Brides, Paid, Fast & Loose, Morocco

@missannabiller (Anna Biller, filmmaker; The Love Witch, Viva):
The Blue Angel, Murder!, Madam Satan, Under the Roofs of Paris, Monte Carlo, Follow Thru, The Unholy Three, Raffles, Our Blushing Brides, Morocco

Janiejoness (tumblr):
L’Age d’Or, Blood of a Poet, Under the Roofs of Paris, Murder!

@FernandoFCroce (Fernando F. Croce of CinePassion):
Earth, L’Age d’Or, Abraham Lincoln, Monte Carlo, Morocco, Dawn Patrol, Murder, City Girl, Big Trail, Up the River

@faithx5 (Jandy of The Frame):
1. All Quiet on the Western Front, 2. The Big Trail, 3. Animal Crackers, 4. People on Sunday, 5. The Blue Angel, 6. The Office Wife

@tenkmovies (of TenKMovies):
1) Blood of a Poet 2) All Quiet on the Western Front 3) Animal Crackers 4) Morocco 5) The Big House 6) The Divorcee 7) Anna Christie 8) Laughter 9) L’age d’Or 10) Abraham Lincoln

@meganeabbott (Megan Abbott, only my favorite current author! Author of Dare Me, The Fever, etc.):
The Blue Angel

@selfstyledsiren (Farran Nehme, the Self-Styled Siren of Film Comment, NY Post, author of Missing Reels):
All Quiet on the Western Front, Her Man, La Petite Lise, City Girl, Min and Bill, The Big House, Morocco, Animal Crackers, Dawn Patrol, The Doorway to Hell

Ladies of Leisure, Monte Carlo, Animal Crackers, The Blue Angel, Sunny Skies

@r_emmet (R. Emmet Sweeney of Movie Morlocks):
Abraham Lincoln, L’Age d’Or, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Big Trail, The Dawn Patrol, Follow Thru, Home Town, Morocco, People on Sunday, The Three from the Filling Station

@HouseOfSparrows (David Robson of House of Sparrows):
The Bat Whispers, A Propos de Nice, Animal Crackers, L’Age d’Or, That Night’s Wife, The Dawn Patrol

Blood of a Poet, Blue Angel, All Quiet on the Western Front, L’Age d’Or, Earth, Animal Crackers, Golf Specialist

L’Age d’Or, The Blue Angel, Earth, All Quiet on the Western Front, City Girl, Borderline (need to see more)

People on Sunday, The Big Trail, A propos de Nice


@NitrateDiva (The Nitrate Diva):
The Devil to Pay!, The Doorway to Hell, Follow Thru, Journey’s End, Ladies of Leisure, Laughter, Monte Carlo, Morocco, Our Blushing Brides, Outward Bound

The Blue Angel, Animal Crackers, King of Jazz, All Quiet on the Western Front

@PreCodeDotCom (
All Quiet on the Western Front, Animal Crackers, The Big House, The Divorcee, L’Age d’Or, Let Us Be Gay, Loose Ankles, Monte Carlo, The Unholy Three, War Nurse

@SeithTristan (Tristan Seith):
The Three from the Filling Station, The Blue Angel, People on Sunday, Earth, Westfront 1918, Under the Roofs of Paris, The Big House, L’Age d’Or, Murder!, Doorway to Hell

Amanda (BFF):
Morocco, Anna Christie

Adam K. (friend):
Earth, All Quiet on the Western Front

WordPress and/or Facebook replies:

Duane Porter:
The Blue Angel, Morocco, Monte Carlo, Prix de beauté, L’Âge d’Or, People on Sunday, Under the Roofs of Paris, Laughter, Earth, Au bonheur des dames


Animal Crackers, L’Age d’Or

FleurRinna Guta:
1.All Quiet on the Western Front 2. The Blue Angel 3.City Girl 4.Under the Roofs of Paris 5. People on Sunday 6.Anna Christie (German) 7.Monte Carlo 8.That Night’s Wife 9.The Divorcee 10.Not So Dumb

Jerry Bryant Jr.:
Laughter, The Blue Angel, Morocco, City Girl, All Quiet on the Western Front, Ladies of Leisure, À propos de Nice, The Bat Whispers, Sins of the Children, The Flirting Widow

L’âge d’or, All Quiet on the Western Front, Animal Crackers, Der blaue Engel
Hell’s Angels, Morocco, À propos de Nice, Sous les toits de Paris, Zemlya (Earth)

Steve Elworth:
1. The Blue Angel, 2. That Night’s Wife, 3. Morocco 4. Earth 5. Murder! 6. Under the Roofs of Paris 7. City Girl 8. l’Age D’Or 9. A propos De Nice 10. Monte Carlo 

Steve Ruskin:
Animal Crackers





Capsule Reviews: Films seen in 2014 Round-Up #6-10

12 years a slave
#6. 12 Years a Slave (2013, McQueen) (USA/UK)
Steve McQueen somewhat inverts his psychological studies from outside-in/how the body inherently relates as vessel between what we see of people and what goes on within. It’s all recognizably McQueen, with suffering as the nucleus, but everything about 12 Years a Slave feels inside-out. By this I mean one man’s story, which remains prioritized, is used as a catalyst for taking in, if not directly on, the larger whole, all stemming from the centrality of Solomon. There is a blanket focus on the broader sets of societal and ideological circumstances through character behavior required for atrocities to be normalized. It’s a story of perverse realities, realities that reinforce the importance of always continuing to confront history, to reexamine, to not forget. Shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently it does, that history reflects the present (not to mention that slavery, in different forms, still exists). There is an emphasis on papers, on the thin and simultaneously meaningless/critical line that determines Solomon’s, and everyone’s, fate. There is also an emphasis on the abruptness of comings and goings in the people Solomon comes into contact with. Eliza’s children, Eliza, Clemens and of course Solomon, now on the exiting end, as he leaves Patsey. It doesn’t linger on these comings and goings; no time is left to process. The moment Solomon leaves particularly resonates, because we leave with him. He is in the carriage, Patsey barely visible, a fuzzy dot in shallow focus, and we can make out enough to see she faints, and then she is out of the frame a couple seconds later.

Can we all agree that the Hans Zimmer score is a direct rip-off of his own work? Specifically the track “Time”, from the last five minutes of Inception. Considering that “Time” is my favorite piece of score Zimmer has ever done, I’m okay with this and understand his desire to self-rehash. But still.

It’s pretty clear that Lupita Nyong’o is sort of the transcendent soul of the film, or rather that Patsey is.

The riverboat sequence stands out as a distinct transitional marker. It formally supports the abhorrent process of being put into the system with atonal music and a focus on the riverboat’s wheel churning (also pulling him farther away from his family). It’s a sort of prelude to the way McQueen presents the material, with a no safety setting intact. Long takes, shallow focus, the pain showing on the face and being inflicted on the body. I also wonder about the focus on brutality in the film, and if maybe it’s sort of an easy way of addressing the institution of slavery that puts that blanket focus mentioned earlier in the shadows. It’s complicated to be sure.

I’ve tried to avoid talking about how I felt during the film because it’s the way most reviews have been framed. But I have to mention the emotional build-up, one of unsurprised but nevertheless tearless disgust, that gets released by the end. As Solomon looks on at his family, both familiar and unrecognizable, apologizing for the state of his appearance, the impact of the film hits all at once. Being lifted out of hell is more emotional, understandable as beginning vs. end of film, than taking the initial plunge.

Lastly, I get that Plan B Entertainment helped produce the film but I really wish someone besides Brad Pitt had been in that role who pulls out his Aldo Raine voice, which I hated the first time, to distract.

Simon of the Desert
#7. Simon of the Desert (1965, Buñuel) (Mexico)
Daunting to write about this one; I can’t pretend to know what Buñuel was trying to do. When it started, I didn’t think much of it, but its combination of overt moments of humor and a gentle sort of satire won me over wholesale by the end. Buñuel sympathizes with or at least pities Simon’s efforts even if the film lampoons the worthlessness of said efforts. One of the things, hell perhaps the thing, I most connect to with Buñuel is his atheism, and so I always enjoy seeing how he tackles religion in various ways throughout his career. What I took from Simon of the Desert was a depiction of misguided piety, and the way Simon’s extreme devotion to God, in which he spends years standing on a pillar, is actually sort of a cheat/empty gesture. That extreme isolation is sort of useless and meaningless; the real hardships are down there on the ground. In this parable, God and Satan exist, but the way faith functions for the characters is condemned. The local priests don’t know their own faith. A father, upon being granted the miracle of restored hands, uses them to slap his child. The townspeople react with indifference and change the topic to bread. Even Simon, who refuses all adornment and basic needs, accepts a larger grander pillar on which to stand upon.

Claudio Brook was giving me weird Bob Odenkirk vibes in his physical appearance.

Buñuel lost money at the end of the production and had to tack on a quick ending, the result being rife with lunacy and the most drastic of all scene-changes. I’m not sure what to make of it, besides it being awesome, but there is an odd complacency on Simon’s part. Radioactive Flash!

Escape from New York
#8. Escape from New York (1981, Carpenter) (USA)
Even with Carpenter films that don’t do much for me, like this one, anything I get out of it directly derives from it being ‘a John Carpenter film’, even if said characteristics help make up my ambivalence. His tendency, particularly with films he has a writing credit on, are exceedingly simple set-ups to the point of near abstraction and a refusal to be bogged down with world-building. He periodically adopts a deliberate molasses-like pacing that promotes a precise foreboding atmosphere supported by his synth scores.

I didn’t feel much one way or the other towards Escape from New York. I enjoyed it enough but wouldn’t call myself a fan. Neither would I go out of my way to put it down. Predictably great cast; I always admire the actors Carpenter chooses to work with, assembling a varied group of regulars in the character actor vein. Even Kurt Russell feels like a character actor in star’s clothing. Donald Pleasence as the President! Was annoyed that Adrienne Barbeau’s character immediately stays by her dead mate to die alongside him. Of course the one female character stops living after her lover dies. Ugh. Harry Dean! Borgnine! Lee Van Cleef! Isaac Hayes! Tom Atkins (!) who I like to pretend is the bane of my existence. So many manly men.

My 3 takeaways were the score, the green-lit streets and alleys, and the ending. I would admittedly have liked a bit more world-building. There is a short casual scene in which Snake enters a decrepit theater where a stage production is happening. I liked that slice-of-desolate-Manhattan life and could have used a bit more of it.

Story of a Prostitute
#9. Story of a Prostitute (1965, Seijun Suzuki) (Japan)
I believe this is only my second Seijun Suzuki film? Can’t claim to have loved Story of a Prostitute when taken as a whole, but there sure as hell were moments, scenes, elements I am in awe of. What held it back for me, though this what probably makes it a more objectively ‘great’ film, is that its focus is far more on the military than is of interest to me, at least in this particular story. Seijun Suzuki served during WWII, and uses this story, which takes place during the Sino-Japanese war, as a gateway for criticizing Japanese military institutions. That aspect is pretty scathing; there is no winning, people are swallowed up like it’s nothing, the system is the one that betrays the individual. The most committed of the bunch, Private Mikami is a boy devoid of personality for his loyalty, and who goes to trial for being taken prisoner only to later commit suicide. It’s nice to see Suzuki reach outside that relentless pulp sheen for that scathing political surge, but I admit it lost me a bit for this same reason.

Yumiko Nogawa is outrageously physical and high-pitched; a force of nature if there ever was one. This is a representative example of Japanese actors/actresses often, depending on the melodrama or tragedy of other tone of the story, using their bodies and voices in ways that seem connected specifically to Japanese theater origins. Harumi is self-destructive, coarsely defiant, and desperate, but she’s fearless. That reliable style-to-spare of Seijun Suzuki’s makes for some remarkable moments within the whole such as using slow-motion and mismatched use of sound to heighten emotion and torment. These moments slow down the nightmare.

#10. Short Term 12 (2013, Cretton) (USA)
So close to being great, and some of it is great, to the point where I still like this a lot despite what I’m about to write. It’s largely undone by an insistence on neatness and on failing to recognize the complexity of individuals by bluntly tacking on a predictable parallel backstory for Larson’s Grace which is rote and unnecessary. There’s also a faint whiff of it having gone to the Hollywood cleaners even if it hasn’t. What I mean is it’s a bit too shiny; a bit too neutered as to make everything more presentable. Just look at the way Nate is presented. He is the new employee and audience surrogate, our introduction into the foster care system. And he is flabbergasted by everything around him. Attempted breakouts, getting spit in the face, being called out on his naivete. Everything. And it’s like really? Really? It seems geared to represent audience reaction, which means the film is assuming that people live in under a rock and don’t understand how tough it is for everyone involved in foster care facilities.

So it’s a testament to the film that despite these major drawbacks, I really liked Short Term 12. When it isn’t stumbling, it has a natural grace, a commitment and attentiveness to both staff and kids alike, and the acting is stellar. I’ve been patiently waiting for Brie Larson to be given a chance to show people what she can do since her work on “The United States of Tara” (where she took the snarky teen role and created new nooks and crannies for her character tenfold) Her contribution to the film is incalculable. She has such a spontaneous charm, such conviction, such a lived-in quality. Her character has a pretty drastic arc, where the illusion of control and responsibility collapses completely. She’s so good that she sells Grace’s arc, and though I hate the direction they take her in, Larson is never less than captivating, selling it all wholesale. The same goes for the Keith Stanfield as Marcus and John Gallagher Jr. as Mason. These are some truly gifted performers. Marcus’ rap is heartbreaking and raw. Short Term 12 feels on its way to authenticity, and I encourage people to see the film even if it abandons its good intentions with clunky compact sheen.

Screening Log: April 1st-14th, 2012 – Films #83-104

Note: The letter grades are entirely arbitrary, and merely reflect my own subjective interest and response to the film on a first viewing.

83. Land without Bread (1933, Bunuel): B-

84. A Day in the Country (1936, Renoir): B

85. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933, Capra): B+

86. The Raid: Redemption (2012, Evans): B+/B

87. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012, Hertzfeldt): A-

88. Sadie Thompson (1928, Walsh): B+/B

89. Monkey Business (1931, McLeod): B-

90. Madam Satan (1930, Demille): A-

91. October (1927, Eisenstein): C-

92. Street Angel (1937, Yuan): C

93. Beggars of Life (1928, Wellman): B+/B

94. Earth (1930, Dovzhenko): B-

95. The Passion of the Christ (2004, Gibson): C-/D+

96. Désiré (1937, Guitry): A

97. Quadrille (1938, Guitry): A-

98. Miss Bala (2012, Naranjo): B

99. Carnosaur (1993, Simon): F

100. The Rape of Europa (2006, Berge, Cohen and Newnham): B

101. Project A (1983, Chan): B+/B

102. Vicious Lips (1986, Pyun): C/C-

103. The Heroic Trio (1993, To): A-/B+

104. Cabin in the Woods (2012, Goddard): A-/B+