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For all of his formal rigor and moral exactitude, Haneke always struck me as the greatest thriller director we'll never have. So, one may wonder, what would a Michael Haneke comedy play like? His look at a toxic, wealthy family in Calais struggling to communicate with everyday human emotions, slowly imploding in various ways, is as riveting as layered as anything he's ever done -- this family's dramas, by turns mordant, melodramatic and even murderous, play out as the mounting refugee crisis, barely glimpsed by this lot, plays out in the far background -- but adds an extra dose of casually caustic humour that works surprisingly well, leading to a double-show-stopper of an ending.

At the age of 74, Haneke's work is as fresh and bracing as ever -- and, now, even funny. The nature of online fervour felt a little out of control, and much too politicised, with the genuinely charming La La Land copping the brunt of a disproportionate backlash. So it's a testament to Moonlight that, even from beneath this suffocating hype, it manages to not only engage and impress, but leave a mark that stings, with images that stick fast.

Using a seemingly endless array of cinematic elements at his disposal -- not just sensitive writing, intelligent direction and terrific actors especially Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monae, Andre Holland and all three Chirons , but light, shade, texture and temperature -- Jenkins crafts an American original filled with pain, love, sensitivity and sensuality, more than worthy of his inspiration, Wong Kar Wai. Turns out, the secret to Lanthimos making a genuinely great film was this: keep the idiosyncratic, dark-as-hell worldview, be a little less funny and even more horrifying.

Bourgeois narcissism and seething sociopathy collide head on in Lanthimos coal-black morality tale, influenced by ancient Greek myth, embodied by a brilliant cast who are almost uniformily in career-best form Farrell is brilliant, Barry Keoghan is something really special and I don't think I've ever loved a Nicole Kidman performance as much as this -- she is f-i-e-r-c-e.

I won't go into story points or characters, as you should see this one as cold as possible. It may circle the drain longer than it should, but Lanthimos delivers a chilling, near-Kubrickian social horror film of diabolical proportions, which builds to one truly terrifying finale. Beyond that, though, I had no idea what to expect -- and what I saw just floored me. It's a small, dark, intimate film with buckets of atmosphere, filled with terrific, naturalistic performances from its small but well-credentialed cast Joel Edgerton, Carmen Egojo, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

While its setup is very much that of the kind of post-apocalyptic, post-zombie-outbreak movies and shows we've seen, Shults' film goes to a completely different place, crawling under our skin by traversing this emotional terrain in a way I've rarely seen drawn this compellingly, economically or frighteningly. As the two families at its centre bond and form a micro-community in a world gone to hell, the insidious force that proves their undoing, that sees them baying for blood, is, more than any other In this divided, fiercely protective, you're with us or against us age we currently live in, if that's not a heady, disquieting concept to keep you awake at night, I don't know what is.

I'm generally dubious of stories told through the eyes of children, but the kid cast here is astonishing -- Brooklynn Prince as Moonee is so effortlessly natural, yet, somehow, enormously charismatic, and Valeria Cotto as red-headed Jancey just cracks your heart in two at all times, she's just adorable -- and Baker has a real feel for capturing kids doing the everyday stuff kids do, at how they create their own world within the one they've been saddled with.

With his crew and wonderful cast of newcomers, non-actors and a lovely Willem Dafoe, Baker unearths everyday wonders, modes of survival and cycles of behaviour through a kind, unflinching, enormously empathetic lens. The Florida Project is tragic, funny, truly social realist -- and exactly the kind of film I never knew I needed so badly.

We follow three men into the prison -- an African-American bartender confronting his lifelong fear of prison, a white hipster type looking for something but unsure what, and a swaggering Latin-American man looking to see how he "measures up" alongside hardened cons -- but as they discover, this isn't like any kind of group therapy session you've ever seen. Because these aren't just any convicts: they're "level four" prisoners -- murderers, rapists, notorious gang leaders, all inside for interminable stretches -- burdened with a seemingly insurmountable tonnage of emotional trauma, inherited toxic masculinity and psychological baggage to work through.

As the sessions get underway, we see that these kind of patients employ a form of -- dare I say -- brutal sensitivity, as the cons shout, clutch, cajole, shove and scream their way through some dark, desolate, deeply wounded emotional landscapes. Along with the convicts, the three civilians we follow in also learn something confronting, primal, surprising and important about themselves. It's not an easy watch by any means -- the discussions are candid, profane, confronting and almost uncomfortably intimate -- but don't be misled: The Work is not a depressing dirge of wall-to-wall pain.

In fact, watching the way these men reveal themselves, and have each other's backs sometimes literally , is incredibly powerful to watch -- and, ultimately, important. Because this is the kind of rehabilitative experience our prison systems need to aspire to: Prisoners confronting their misdeeds, their guilt and their culpability, but also the people, influences and environments that led them there Undoubtedly one of the most heartbreaking, potent documentaries I've ever seen -- tears were streaming down my face just 30 minutes in -- Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous' film should be compulsory viewing -- particularly among men, young and old, who battle with the spectre of inherited, toxic behaviour every day: you don't have to give in to it.

You can be better than that. You can confront it, confront yourself, and heal. You'll see even the baddest of badasses can cry I didn't see it coming, but surprise was not the only factor -- just thinking about its small moments, its low-key confrontations, its emotional clarity, I know a second viewing would propel me to the same raw, uncontrollably tearful place.

I'm not sure if it is just me getting older, or a reaction to the increasingly fraught world around us, or a reaction to the compromised, corporate-mandated and market-tested blockbuster cinema we're being fed year after year, but as went on, I started to discover that what I need most out of art these days is to be moved.

Not in an overbearing, sentimental, not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house type way, but in films and TV and stories that seem to have a direct line to truth. Characters and situations that, whether straight-dramatic or genre-fanciful, are grounded in a recognisable form of human behaviour and connection; ones that don't seem like they're acting in service of the plot, or genre conventions, or posing for the trailer.

This is what has always appealed to me about the films of the s -- a decade in which indie dramas, absurd exploitation films and studio comedies all seemed to reflect an unvarnished, tangible, authentic quality. This is terrain writer-director Kenneth Lonergan understands.

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While I was divided on his epic, troublesome drama Margaret from a few years back, his first film, 's You Can Count On Me was a little gem, and all three of his films draw upon his extensive background writing and directing for the stage, a background steeped in mining the minutiae of human behaviour, of human frailty. Using small observations of people struggling through enormous personal tragedy, Lonergan teams with his peerless cast to burrow deep into these primal truths. Casey Affleck we'll set aside his problematic personal life for the purposes of this review finds another gear in this performance, deeply inhabiting this bereft man, permanently broken and almost unbearably open-nerved with self-immolating guilt.

Michelle Williams -- much more at home in such surrounds -- makes a nuclear impact with relatively little screen time, Kyle Chandler is a damn-near angelic presence in this thing and Lucas Hedges is assured and just about perfect, marking him as someone who's career I'll be following from here on in. Rather than wallow in grief -- which, in my truth-seeking state, would utterly repulse me -- Lonergan and his cast know the ebbs and flows of life, the everyday joys and fuck-ups and wins and losses and loads and struggles and dumb baggage and macho bullshit and compromises and passion and indignities and loves and bruises of the whole damn thing.

For a film that made me barely suppress howls of tears, Manchester by the Sea also features some of the laugh-out-loud funniest, and most warmly affectionate, moments I saw anywhere -- on film, television or otherwise -- all year. Because that's the way life is. You never see it coming. But when it does, you will be unprepared. It may even destroy you. What Manchester by the Sea shows us is, there is no outcome. There's just getting through life, until it ends. But we've got a hell of a better chance of getting through it together. We just have to have the empathy, and the stamina, to try.

With Manchester by the Sea , Kenneth Lonergan has, for me, unquestionably crafted a true American masterpiece. Thank you all so much for reading my annual ramblings, and for supporting us here at Cinema Viscera throughout the year! I want you to know how much it all means to me, and I can't wait to return the favour by showing you our film next year Vive le cinema! Hey there, Viscerals! What a year, huh? Shame it was so uneventful. Nothing of social or artistic or political consequence happened and we all lived happily ever after!

Okay, I'll dispense with the sarcasm. Honestly, I'm not sure what I can say about this year that hasn't been said already, repeatedly and more eloquently. We lost titans of the arts -- from David Bowie and Alan Rickman, to Prince and Leonard Cohen, and then some -- while the far-right swept to power in a depressing majority of developed nations as fears around economic disparity and radicalised terrorism took hold boosted and manipulated by a media often all-too-willing to seek clickbait headlines and controversial soundbites over facts, but that's another conversation for another forum.

I mention this as the major events of have left a lot of people around the globe uncertain at best -- and terrified at worst -- at what awaits us in , and this climate can't help but find itself reflected in the art we saw and heard this year. Many of my favourite film experiences of this year were, in some way or another, reflections of where we're at as a society right now, and, while we've come so far, highlight symptoms of a society still in need of many cures.

However doesn't mean I've gone all self-righteous and shit. Some killer big-and-small-screen entertainments made my faves of as well, because I'm a human being who enjoys popcorn and a good time like everyone else. So, without further waffling, let's jump in by busting a widely-spoken myth, straight up:. I respectfully disagree. Every art form bursts with valid perspectives and fresh takes on old themes each and every year. The first flaw most of these articles make is assessing "Cinema" by looking almost solely at blockbusters and awards season titles, which is like assessing literature by focusing on E.

L James and Stephanie Meyer -- based upon that criteria, the novel is well dead and buried, too! Just because gargantuan promotional budgets try to force blockbuster behemoths into the zeitgeist, doesn't mean they represent the art form, or, indeed, that they were of any worth in the first place. If you look around, even a few inches either side of your local multiplex, you can see vital, exciting cinema to prove the seventh art is as thrilling as ever.

Are we all agreed? While, yes, there is some brilliant television, and, yes, gee whiz it can tell stories in such a different way to cinema well, being a different art form, of course that's true -- my own highlights of the year include the brilliant final season of Mad Men , the adorably fun Stranger Things , the claustrophobic real-world terror of The Night Of welcome back, Richard Price! Read on, to find some supporting documents as to the continued health and life of the art form.

Doom and gloom, sturm und drang , was not hard to find in , with no shortage of people calling for the year's head, as "Fuck you, " became a popular refrain. But here's the thing: while, yes, in a lot of ways especially in the realms of politics, socioeconomics and celebrity passings , the year did suck for a lot of people I actually had a pretty great Perhaps the best year I've had this decade.

For starters, we made a movie. I've wanted to make films for 25 years, only got serious about it years ago and, after making five short films during that time, finally got lucky enough to be given the chance to make my very first feature, Trench , this year. To my ears, no amount of thanks I can give these people -- cast, crew and donors -- sounds adequate. The reason Trench exists is because of you. As the time of writing, we have a fine cut locked in, and we'll be spending January getting the picture and sound sorted, aiming to complete the film by the end of that month, to screen for sales agents, distributors and festivals!

Not bad for a film we didn't start writing until late August I also got to attend a film festival as a filmmaker for the very first time, as my most recent short film, Cigarette , was selected to screen at this year's Monster Fest -- Australia's premier genre and fantastic film festival! The job festival director Kier-La Janisse and her team have done over the last two years in raising the game of this relatively young festival has been nothing short of awesome: the program featured the very best films to emerge from the world's major genre fests, such as Sitges, Fantasia and Fantastic Fest, as well as shining a light on emerging Australian talents.

From Opening to Closing Nights, I made full advantage of my VIP lanyard, seeing 9 films in 4 days, being roped into an impromptu session of the VHS board game Nightmare and meeting all manner of cool people, from filmmakers to festival programmers to film fans alike. The entire festival treated me beautifully, and it was a wonderful experience I shall forever treasure Every week for the last six months, it seems, Curve was selected to screen at another festival across the world. Tim and I have worked together on various projects in various capacities over the last ten years, and he's always struck me as a singular talent -- I count him as a key creative mentor, which is unusual to say about someone five years younger than you, but Tim's no ordinary cat -- and the fact that Curve has made such a far-reaching impression, effectively announcing Tim Egan to the world just confirms everything I've ever thought about him, and it couldn't happen to a nicer dude.

One last professional joy for me also wasn't my own, nor was it even cinematic: another of my closest friends, Lee Zachariah, turned the toughest emotional time of his life into his very first book, Double Dissolution: Heartbreak and Chaos on the Campaign Trail , which sees him covering the Australian Federal Election whilst recovering from the disintegration of his marriage. I'm still in the midst of reading it, but thus far it's everything I expect from Lee and then some: honest, insightful, brilliant and hilarious.

Double Dissolution is available in bookstores throughout Australia, or at the link I've helpfully laid into the book's title above. If you haven't yet, I urge you to grab one for yourself, and more copies for others. But enough about me and my friends Some disclaimers to start: 1 As always, this countdown reflects my own personal thoughts, and not the views of our production company or any other people within it.

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In , I saw 97 such films 33 of them at festivals , the first time in recent memory I've not hit the ton. Something something I've been making my own damn film, etc. None of which came anywhere close to making this list, just so you know. Unfortunately, I'm just not able to do one this time around. What with making Trench and generally being busier than ever, I just didn't have the chance to see as much stuff this year.

Another reason for this paucity is the fact this was my first year not co-hosting the Hell Is For Hyphenates podcast, which forced me to explore the career of a different great filmmaker every month. Yet another was, I watched a stack of film noir both new and old in research for Trench , but very few of those I hadn't seen before excited me. You can see the list of what I watched here -- for fun, when Trench comes out next year, see if you can find any trace of them in it!

But also I really dug a lot of what I saw, and it was fun to rekindle my true love for horror again. You can find the full list of what I watched here. The biggest revelation of the whole thing, for me, was how brilliantly Cujo held up. A claustrophobic nightmare about the erosion of the modern American family.

Everyone in the film, even poor Cujo himself, is a victim. It's frightening and poignant stuff. Film festival screenings only. Due for release in Capsule review: Wheatley's blissfully chaotic bucket of oddball scorpions is a blast, managing to surmount rare lulls with pure, hilarious mania. General Video-on-Demand and Streaming release. General theatrical release.

Capsule review: Even when its threads seem loose, Almodovar masterfully draws them together, his familial tale of fate and guilt gently cutting deep. Limited theatrical release. Capsule review: Beautiful look at ageing artists not going quietly in NYC art colony is inspiring, bright and deeply touching. Capsule review: A surprisingly resonant drama of our choices and the debris we leave behind, AND a primal, visceral thriller.

Tom Ford is a considerable filmmaking talent.

Capsule review: Julia Ducournau's frighteningly assured debut pushes coming-of-age rites, college hazing and sororal rivalry to aptly horrific and often funny extremes. Capsule review: Gripping moral thriller of modern warfare is impressively complex and final credits shot aside skilfully avoids didacticism. Capsule review: Near-unbearably intense genre-mash tosses the rulebook aside, as it digs into faith, xenophobia and our age of senseless tragedy.

Capsule review: Exquisite musical riff on reality's bittersweet collisions with fantasy has style and sadness to burn, powered by megawatt stars. Capsule review: Stunning and thoughtful -- even stirring -- sci-fi parable for adults about communication and empathy feels downright vital right now.

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Capsule review: In the face of our rapid, hour, hyper-connected times, Jarmusch defiantly composes a vital, gentle ode to art, love and everyday beauty. Capsule review: Takes on banks' GFC complicity with alarming dexterity and humour, without compromising its complexity or justifiable rage.

Capsule review: Cracking debut builds dread with style whilst skewering Puritans then and now, before heading in a fiendishly unexpected direction. Netflix streaming release. Capsule review: DuVernay's excoriating critique of mass incarceration of black males paints an irrefutable picture of a white US still terrifyingly unreconciled.

Or, put another way: Wadjda meets Papillion. Also: Aaron Pedersen is a goddamn movie star. Capsule review: "Don't lose your humour. A daring exercise in form, cranking up the social cringe comedy to epic proportions; its final act prompting a thunderous release of laughs and tears like few I can recall.


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Disarmingly expansive, bizarre take on life, work and the need for levity. Kind of glorious. Many hated it, but I found it a cornucopia of ugliness staged so beautifully I wanted to bathe in every frame Also, Evil Sleazy Keanu might be my favourite Keanu. Review: Funny how the first film I saw in was also the one to most accurately frame the violently toxic, tumultuous socio-political landscape to come. Anyone who knows me knows Quentin Tarantino is my favourite filmmaker and artistic idol, but even I didn't quite expect him to come up with this. The Hateful Eight is not only Tarantino's purest spaghetti western to date, but also his most political film yet: a gleefully nasty, unflinchingly nihilistic mirror to a racist, misogynistic United States of America.

It has something on its mind in a prominent way that Tarantino's films have always downplayed; they're always about something, but only lately have the works themselves been brazen and pissed off enough to openly admit it. It's a beautifully bilateral film: both thrillingly entertaining -- bursting with witty scripting and indelible, complex characters, -- and teeth-baringly vicious, out to leave a deep and painful mark. In an often painful year full of intelligent, angry films about the world we find ourselves in right now, I couldn't help but find this one of the most truthful.

But it's no tract: The Hateful Eight is a big, blasting, booming cinematic tableau writ large -- quite literally, in its full minute-plusminute-interval, 2. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Walton Goggins that ranks among the best of their career. And while we're discussing "career-best work", can we talke about il maestro Ennio Morricone, who delivered the year's most distinctive, thrilling, even bone-chilling, musical score?

I saw this behemoth three times on the big screen -- something I've not done since, well, Death Proof -- and it wouldn't take much coaxing to lure me into a fourth. Although it made its world premiere at the tail end of , The Hateful Eight has proved to be the definitive film of , and the ultimate summation of the obsessions, concerns and filmmaking powers of Quentin Tarantino to date.

Perhaps this might just be his masterpiece. Thank you for reading my wrap of the films of ! Love, peace and cinema, PAN xx. Another year, and another promise to blog more has been broken. Why do you all keep believing me? Regarding the banner picture up there: Only two of those five films made my list. Care to wager which before you keep on reading?

Meet you at the end. Perhaps even the craziest of my life to date. Here's hoping the madness doesn't stop here. The prospect of , with a short film going out to festivals, a feature film shoot and likely going out to festivals itself by year's end! But let's hop in the wayback machine, real quick:. One delight of being a movie fan in this day and age, with unparalleled access to films from bygone eras, is being able to explore film history at your own pace and temper. While I don't regret my decision to leave Hyphenates after over a half-decade, I will miss being pushed toward some corners of film history I may not have thought to explore.

Case in point: my first big discoveries of Most people are more likely to think of Kobayashi as a character in The Usual Suspects than a master of Japanese cinema, but this needs to change. Masaki Kobayashi was a contemporary of Akira Kurosawa, Kon Ichikawa and Keisuke Kinoshita, which may explain why he got lost in the shuffle a little. While Kobayashi's filmography was perhaps slightly more uneven than at least Kurosawa's, I was stunned and delighted to find his peaks stood shoulder to shoulder with even Akira's best.

HARA-KIRI known in Japan by its original title SEPPUKU -- both terms meaning ritual suicide; the latter, the more traditional Japanese term is a searing critique of Samurai culture and the hypocrisy inherent within all systems believing themselves beyond reproach, whether political or patriotic or, by inference, patriarchal. Kobayashi's film starts with a seemingly humble, broken-down ronin in feudal Japan offering his services to a wealthy family, which has apparently been happening a lot of late. The deal is, they offer employment or seppuku, and whichever one the house chooses, the ronin must obey.

Your more greedy families, not wanting to potentially pay some layabout claiming to be samurai to loaf about their houses, tend to choose the latter But, in preparing to kill himself for this proud and wealthy house's gratification, our ronin has a story to tell I won't say any more, except to say it's both thrillingly exciting and crushingly sad, one of the greatest revenge yarns ever told and, despite revolving almost entirely upon obsolete social structures, is as relevant and excoriating now as ever.

It's astonishingly good. Kobayashi was an avowed pacifist who refused to enlist for World War II, was promptly drafted and thrown into the conflict, and, after refusing to take a rank above private, was captured and detained into a POW camp. So, when he discovered Junpei Gomikawa's epic novel about Kaji, a pacifist whose wartime experience weirdly mirrored his -- albeit with a few more horrific trials of mind, body and spirit thrown in -- it was small wonder Kobayashi took it upon himself to devote three years of his life to adapting Gomikawa's book to the screen.

If Kurosawa had Toshiro Mifune as his ever-malleable muse, Kobayashi found his own in Tatsuya Nakadai, who is simply phenomenal as Kaji. It's a masterpiece that will shatter you. I have screenwriter Mark Protosevich to thank for this discovery, and you can listen to our Hell is For Hyphenates chat here. By following Bill, a man whose perception of reality and memory is becoming increasingly blurred and untethered, if there's a better, more deeply felt film about hopes, dreams, dealing with mental illness and just struggling through day-to-day life, I've yet to see it.

Pretty incredible when you consider it's a film populated entirely by stick figures. One of the great works of the s -- and would have been my favourite film of if I'd seen it that year. I now know why there was such a furore over its Oscar shutout in , and why it appears on so many Best Films of the s lists -- because it's a masterpiece. A million miles away from the pretentious essayist provocations of Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda is such an irresistibly puckish, inquisitive filmmaker, her films so alive with humour, curiosity, creativity and humanity, they can't help but be instantly engrossing.

Following a popular singer played by the gorgeous Corinne Marchand on a pivotal day in her life, as she waits for some potentially terrible news, struggles with creativity and ego and maybe even falls in love -- all in real time the minute film's title should actually be CLEO FROM 5 TO , but I understand that's not nearly as catchy.

It's all those adjectives I assigned to Varda's work earlier, but also impossibly cool, raw, sensual and adorable. She's amazing. Like Varda, his films are always so heartbreakingly human, inquisitive about humanity and surprisingly funny -- or frightening. Set in medieval Sweden, it's the story of a devoutly religious family whose beloved daughter is raped and killed by a roving band of thugs The almost unbearable sadness of the situation, the even-nowadays-grueling attack scene and growing tension over who will discover what about whom and when, all adds up to a brilliantly claustrophobic fable of human nature, crime and punishment and who we all really are when pushed.

It's an astonishing work in a career of them by the Swedish master. Now, let's jump back into the wayback machine and return to You'll find him, his marmalade sandwiches and his hard stare in my Honourable Mentions. As I said earlier, was an odd duck of a movie year: I liked the vast majority of what I saw, only loved but a few and pledged my unquestioned allegiance to fewer still. First, I give you my Incredible access to our oldest culture.

Actor-turned-filmmaker Gameau spoils your party with some genuine shocks and revelations in this rigorous, highly entertaining documentary. A and multiculturalism as it is to its big-hearted subject. Russell Engrossing, moving study of a modern self-made woman starts in heavy exposition overload, but rouses -- even genuinely thrills -- once everything clicks into place. And awesome disco tunes. Bring all the tissues. The very act of making this film feels like a risky, heroic act. There is no programming more human than self-interest. Best riff on Frankenstein in years.

Less a tale told than observed, through fragments of behaviour. Michael Keaton is sublime, and I could watch him and Edward Norton play acting tennis all day long. An almost unbearably sad account of a broken cycle of despair, driven by political greed, overseas interests and power-mad ideologues. Abraham Attah and Idris Elba give incredible performances.

Key viewing for kids and adults, mining the most primal of human experiences to show us why all emotions, even sadness, are not only useful, but essential. Pixar's greatest magic trick to date and their best film in years hits raw nerves, earning its crushing, mass-sob-inducing finale. Beautifully designed with a retro flavour and perfectly voice-cast, too. One last word: Bingbong. Astoundingly visceral, FURY ROAD is the place where next-level practical stunts and choreographed action meets insanely detailed, almost surreal design it felt to me like Jodorowsky on all the crack at times and sinewy, locomotive scripting.

How refreshing, in this backstory-obsessed age that spends forever even entire trilogies explaining how everyone got to where, to have this movie throw us mercilessly into a world we barely recognise, with characters we don't know, left to adapt to this world or die. From Junkie XL's stirring, percussive blast of a score, to John Seale's kinetic, seemingly-positioned- everywhere cinematography, to Charlize Theron heisting the film in broad daylight from an already terrific Tom Hardy with her already-classic one-armed super-heroine Furiosa, to the wonderfully powerful feminist subtext laid throughout, George Miller has created the new millennium's second definitive action epic Tarantino's KILL BILL -- another with feminist overtones -- being the first, for mine.

Fourth entries in film series are not meant to be any good. In fact, they're almost uniformly terrible. But, in echoing but not aping, linking but not continuing, honouring but not seeking to recapture the initial trilogy, George Miller has made The Exception That Proves The Rule: A fourth film that shows that sequels don't have to be repetitive, that blockbusters can be thematically interesting, that broad emotional strokes don't have to be reductive, that action can be physical and awe-inspiring, and that mega-budget cinematic entertainments, when entrusted to true artists equipped to paint on a grand canvas, don't have to suck.

They can be inspiring. They can push the form forward. They can inspire the next generation of filmmakers. Thank you for reading this year's countdown, hope you enjoyed it! Cheers -- and vive le cinema! Greetings, Viscerati! Hope you all had a killer Christmas and are shaping up for a huge new year we certainly are! How was your ? Personally, it's been kinda big; I moved one feature film script closer to completion and started another, wrote my first short film in three years -- which we'll be making, frighteningly soon -- started forming a team of awesome collaborators to take Cinema Viscera to the next level, and basically lined up a shitload of dominos to knock over in , all going well.

But more on all that in other posts to come soon. Today, I'm here to extol the virtues of what gave me in cinema, and other filmic discoveries I had along the way -- broken up into helpful chapters. The Long Goodbye. We invite a different special guest on the show to discuss the career of a filmmaker of their choosing, film by film. If you haven't listened to it, you really should! But enough of the advertorial: we'd been talking with the lovely Mathieu Ravier, eminence grise of the Sydney Film Festival Hub, about doing a show there for a while, so it was our huge pleasure to fly up for this year's fest to record our first ever live-audience podcast.

But who would our guest be? So Mathieu approached us with the indelible proposition: would we like to discuss the films of Robert Altman with Michael Altman? Of course, we turned him down flat. Are you kidding??! Yes, I am, and no, we didn't: once Lee and I reconstructed our exploded brain matter from around the room, we leapt at the chance. What followed was one of the defining film-viewing experiences of my life.

What's more, Michael Altman was a lovely man, a most obliging guest with plenty of great stories and insightful perspectives on his father's films. Starring a magnetic, laconic Elliott Gould at the peak of his movie star powers seriously, you'll wonder why he didn't rule the rest of the decade , the film's caustic dialogue, gymnastic narrative, evocative sense of place, snatches of everyday quirkiness and loose reinvention of genre will make you feel like you're watching the Coen Brothers' entire aesthetic being born in front of you, ten years before they emerged.

It's a furiously entertaining, meta-before-"meta" blast of ganja-clouded L. A haze that arrived two decades before its time, and provides the perfect launching pad to explore this towering filmmaker's astonishing career. Not to knock the films of -- as you'll soon see, they've more than pulled their weight -- but many of the most invigorating movie experiences of this year have been older films I finally got around to seeing, or all-time favourites I was fortunate to rediscover on the big screen.

These two films present American cinema at its optimum: grand yet intimate, planted firmly in genre yet laced with timelessly relevant social commentary about how we live and what we do to each other, forged with flawless craft and embodied by an explosive cast who all get a moment to make an impression. Masterworks both, and a big screen viewing is not an offer you should refuse. It's fair to say it had a seismic effect on me upon release I saw it four times, still a PB! It's pretty much my Star Wars , and seeing it projected from a slightly battered 35mm print of the huge Astor Theatre screen in Windsor, alongside some of my closest friends, was like reacquainting myself with a great love.

I had always dug it, but this is the first time I truly fell for her and their beautiful, almost innocent, flirtatious chemistry. The whole Jack Rabbit Slims sequence wrought actual tears of joy. The musical way QT and his editor Sally Menke build and deliver such an array of centrepiece scenes into a cohesive, irresistible whole is masterful. And amongst the gunplay and monologues, there's something actually damn near poignant about Jules' final act turnaround; a man who has operated on power and violence his whole life suddenly finding he's no need for any of it -- and truly no idea what to do next.

In his larger-than-life way, Tarantino is often most interested in seeing his characters find fleeting pockets of inspiration within the madness that is their lives. It was a wonder way back then, and remains so today -- and will endure. The first hour sets up the four protagonists in near-wordless economy -- almost feeling like four different short films -- before throwing them together in one of the most pitiful hellholes ever committed to screen the dilapidated production design is relentless , firing a still-timely broadside at the way multinational resource firms exploit third world nations ripe for the picking.

It's time for this neglected classic to finally get its due and become a fixture on repertory cinema calendars the world over. A jaw-dropper from start to finish. This exploration of identity and inverting traditional female roles is a closet full of mysteries, bewitching and bewildering in equal measure, yet resonating powerfully on a primal, subconscious level as cinematographer Sven Nykvist's luscious monochrome compositions envelop your senses.

Essential cinema. But enough trips down memory lane. It's time for the show! Every year has its share of good and bad, but was, by any measure, a strong year for movies; perhaps the strongest of the twenty-teens thus far. Once again, most of the year's best were found well outside major US studio fare, but -- credit where it's due -- there was some solid multiplex fare, too. As usual, I duly sidestepped most major US comedies, films that looked particularly bad, or anything Cameron Diaz was in this year.

And, naturally, there were quite a few critically or commercially popular films I just plain missed as, well, I can't see everything and, often, didn't really want to. This year kept me pretty damn busy, forcing me to miss a number of screenings I actually did want to attend, so why waste my time with things I didn't? Still, I think you'll agree that I've absorbed a broad spectrum from which to choose my year's finest my full list of eligible films can be found in the comments. As always, my countdown arrives with disclaimers: My list is restricted to films that had their paid premiere screening to the Australian public whether in cinemas, on home video, online or at film festivals during the calendar year.

So look for it on next year's list -- which I guarantee, it will make. So, with films in the running, what did I love most? Because this year in film was so strong, I've had no choice but to forgo the usual honourable mentions and name a record I can't think of another year in the decade I've been doing these lists that I've loved so many. Okay, now I'll shut up and count down. An innovative, deeply personal work of uncommon frankness and emotional complexity, and the very best Australian film I saw this year. I'm unsure whether Blind will ever find a local release, but I strongly urge you to seek it out.

It's a pistol. Not easy as a rare good man in a town of bad apples. CHEF A one-time superstar chef is fired from his big-time restaurant and finds redemption -- and reconnection with loved ones -- through weaving his own culinary magic from a beat-up food truck. It's also just plain fun, filled with delicious-looking food, irresistible Latin rhythms and an excellent, affable all-star cast having a ball -- not to mention being one of the few films to understand the reach and power of social media.

Leads Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi make a strong impression as the loveable, attractive leads, and Amirpour goes about crafting her tale in a spare, sparse but always interesting way that transcends her influences -- showing a gift for small sensual moments, beautiful imagery, subtle yet very pointed social commentary and a Tarantino-esque feel for matching music to image -- that marks her as a huge talent to watch. NEBRASKA Elderly and ornery, Woody Grant a wonderful Bruce Dern seems convinced his bogus Publisher's Clearing House-style slip is going to net him the million dollars it promises, and is determined to travel the country to fetch it -- with his youngest son David Will Forte, a revelation here with his sad-eyed turn in tow to make sure Woody doesn't get himself into mischief.

Payne has a serious eye and ear for the tragic dignity of middle America, honing it ever more from film to film, all at once beautifully simple, utterly ridiculous and quietly heartbreaking. Complicating matters is Adam's party girl sister Ava a delightfully devilish Mia Wasikowska , as impulsive as her elders are considered and incognito. I'm not one for sequels -- only three appear on this list -- but revisiting these two brilliant, strangely loveable comic actors, both indulged and reigned in by the sure hand of director Michael Winterbottom The Trip, 24 Hour Party People , was an absolute pleasure.

Even more picturesque than the first -- those Italian countrysides are luscious -- it cloaks its eloquence on the impending threat of ageing we all face with some of the funniest scenes of one-upmanship and friendly ribbing you'll see. I almost never say this, but: bring on a third. When she takes them home, you won't believe what fate awaits them… yet, that's only the hook for this endlessly odd, completely beguiling film.

Scarlett Johansson is subtly brilliant, pulling off an excellent british accent and taking us on an indelible, chilling headtrip with her enigmatic character. Rarely does a film start off so terrifying and end up so sadly, but Johansson's journey from hunter to hunted, seemed -- to my eyes, anyway, I could be wrong -- to be exploring nothing less than the cavernous gulf between the general perception and painful actuality of the female sexual experience.

You'll feel like a dunce while watching it, but just try and get this darkly beautiful, haunting film out of your head afterward. Oh, and Mica Levi's musical score may be the best you'll hear in WADJDA A determined girl named Wadjda wants her own bicycle: this may sound like the stuff of Italian neorealism -- and there's definitely a thematic DNA there -- but this girl lives in Saudi Arabia, where women aren't allowed to drive, vote… or make movies.

There's a lived-in quality to this world and every character in it, of such uncommon depth you'll find yourself wondering about the pasts and futures of even the most incidental characters. Considering Hollywood studios' often failed obsession with "world building", watching a woman from Saudi Arabia just rock up and do it like it ain't no thang is truly inspiring.

Simmons , whose idea of teaching would make Hannibal Lecter blush -- a never-ending cycle of verbal, physical and psychological abuse to break people down, build them- nah, just keep breaking them -- which takes a serious toll on Andrew's psyche. Chazelle's blazing command of craft will linger long after his often over-the-top story the car crash scene, in particular, loses me, metaphor or not fades from view. Over the course of an 80 minute drive, it's just him, his car phone and his conscience as he tries to save everything: the biggest concrete pour of his construction career, his marriage and that mistake.

He's done some extraordinary work in his short career, but this ranks near the top. The voice cast on the other end of his phone line provide able support, too; particularly Andrew Scott as his particularly nervous foreman. Strap yourself in for one of the year's best thrillers. Matt Reeves directs the hell out of Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffe and Amanda Silver's thrilling screenplay; both a sensitive personal drama and a whip-smart sociopolitical conspiracy thriller. But it all crumbles if the visual effects fail in any way, and this is the film's greatest magic trick: it creates hordes of photorealistic apes, rendered so seamlessly, the leading ape characters so affectingly, achingly lifelike, that it feels like you're watching a new frontier being crossed.

Rock bottom arrives when they suffer a world record loss to the Australian national team -- hardly a World Cup superpower themselves -- 31 goals to nil. By the time cancer finally claimed him in , aged 70, the outpouring of condolences and goodwill was huge. Using Ebert's memoir as a springboard, world-class documentarian Steve James creates a loving tribute to Ebert's journey from newspaperman to drunk to critic to sobriety to TV stardom to illness to Twitter, posing a series of pointed questions to the man himself, but also talking to family and friends and even a few enemies from all of these eras, unafraid to show Ebert's sharper edges.

A highlight of the film is the examination of his complex, combative, almost brotherly relationship with Gene Siskel, not least for some fascinating outtake footage. Ebert may have been prickly, but as he grew older, and ego ceded to love, his indomitable voice is what endures -- which never blazed brighter than when he lost it.

PRIDE Under the threat of catastrophic job losses, miners from small towns all over the UK spent the majority of standing up to Margaret Thatcher's draconian rule, and suffered dearly, as her government found new ways to squeeze them into accepting her terms: mostly involving violent police action. As fate had it, the striking miners found an ally in another group familiar with such harassment: a particularly politicised corner of the London LGBT community, who started collecting money for the miners' cause.

Writer Steven Beresford and director Matthew Warchus' dramatisation of these events -- of an alliance that began uneasily, to say the least, but wound up becoming an example for us all -- is so perfectly judged, never shying away from the political, social and personal stakes at hand, expressing them through a range of beautifully written characters played by the best assembly of UK actors seen in years.

The ads and posters make it seem twee, but this story of the power of protest, of finding kindred spirits in unexpected places during times of adversity, is as politically vital as any film I saw this year. It will also make you cry buckets, so be warned. LUCY There are few sights so pleasing to this film buff as watching a mad auteur being completely unleashed.

A beating at the hands of a reprehensible type sees the package burst and the experimental drug enter Lucy's system in gigantic quantities, expanding first her intelligence, then her consciousness… and her power. What follows is both the silliest, most ambitious and most thrillingly unhinged action film seen in an age, where LSD-trip profundity rubs shoulders with comic book insanity. Welcome back, Luc: we missed you. Inside, the last remaining humans are segregated in terms of class: the poorest at the back, the train's president at the front. But young firebrand Curtis a never-better Chris Evans has other ideas; he rouses the downtrodden to make their way to the front and take the train.

If this sounds like an implausible comic book, it's because it's based upon one Snowpiercer 's politics are its third rail: the one where all the power is. He set about making the most incredible science fiction picture ever made -- made only with collaborators Jodorowsky considered "spiritual warriors" -- which would do nothing less than expand the consciousness of all who saw it. But where does a document of a failed, unrealised film get off being so damned inspiring? John Badham On Directing.

John Badham. Independent Ed. Edward Burns. Not so Quiet on the Set. Robert E. Anne Thompson. Work in Progress. Michael D. John Logan. Brat Pack America. Kevin Smokler. Five Stars! Christopher Null. On The Set. Paul Salamoff. Janet Wilcox. Makin' Toons. Allan Neuwirth. Hire Me, Hollywood!

Mark Scherzer. Leading Lady. Stephen Galloway. Laremy Legel. Nicholas Kolya. How to Sell Your Idea to Hollywood. Robert Kosberg. If I Only Knew Then Charles Grodin. Tom Shone. Mickey Rooney Was Right. Thad Komorowski. Gods of Grindhouse: Interviews with Exploitation Filmmakers. Andrew J. Rick Friedberg. A Thousand Cuts. Dennis Bartok.

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