“Film Comment” invited me to contribute a movie review not too long ago. They assigned me a small Bulgarian movie called The Lesson, directed by first-time feature filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, who both also wrote the script together. I’d like to think I know something about Eastern European film, being a fan of some of it. I’m honored that this publication trusted me to examine this movie.

It’s a raw, low-key picture featuring a tight drama at the center focusing on a school teacher (a nicely focused Margita Gosheva), who thinks she has something to teach her students. Then she learns about the difficulty of circumstances and how it might drive people to desperate measures for herself. I won’t spoil the review here. You can read it after jumping through the “Film Comment” logo below, click though it:

Film Comment logo

I hope to write more for this publication that has taught me so much about film criticism. It’s tough being down at the end of the U.S., in Miami, as far as getting first-dibs on movies, but hopefully there will be other opportunities to explore some small, but interesting films from around the globe for this prestigious publication.

Hans Morgenstern

The Lesson runs 105 minutes, is in Bulgarian with English subtitles and is not rated (don’t expect anything too disturbing beyond questioning morals). It opens in our Miami area exclusively at the Tower Theater this Friday, April 17. Film Comment shared an on-line screener for the purpose of the review.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

jealousyThe opening shot in Jealousy (La Jalousie) is striking in its power and minimalism. Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant), staring slightly off camera, struggles between smiling and crying. It’s a brilliant moment that shows a profound range of emotions washing over her, as she oscillates from sadness to deep pensiveness to a look that almost seems like acceptance before a fade to black. The powerful shot sets the scene for the film, which does not rely on flashy flourishes but rather the stillness of the camera capturing human emotions as they unfold. Jealousy tells the story of serious, sensitive, struggling actor Louis (played by Louis Garrel, the director’s son), who early in the film ends a relationship with Clothilde, the mother of his child, also a former actress. He has moved on to a new relationship with Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), who is also a struggling actress, as she hasn’t landed a role in over six years. The couple’s daughter Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) is also deeply affected. We meet her through a beautiful shot, as she watches her parents break up through a keyhole in her door. She certainly can feel something has upended their world, but she cannot understand it.

While on the surface the story of Jealousy can be succinctly summarized: a man breaks up with the mother of his child for another woman who in turn leaves him for another (wealthier) man, the layers of narrative make this film a deep psychological portrait of relationships. It goes beyond the romantic bond between the partners. Director Philippe Garrel is in his finest, most subtle form in years. He presents several scenes with Louis and his daughter in these small moments that create depth and intimacy in a relationship. Seemingly — at least by the Hollywood standards of action-driven narrative — not much happens, yet we are able to gain an understanding of who these people are and what motivates them because of the director’s delicate hand.

Though the film is titled Jealousy, the theme seems to be more about what binds people together and the complex ties interwoven in a mosaic of people coming in and out of one another’s lives. In one of the scenes, Louis, who grew up without his father, is approached by a woman who tells him she loved his father. In another montage, Claudia washes the feet of an old writer whom she befriended because she liked his work so much. These vignettes might be confusing or out-of-place, but in Garrel’s subtle narrative they connect us to the characters and create an atmosphere that feels so familiar it allows us easy empathy for these people.

A standout character is little Charlotte, who moves the story along with her straightforward yet delightfully sweet tone. The character is partially based on director’s own experience as a child. For instance, in one of the scenes Charlotte talks to her mom about the lovely day she spent with her dad and his new girlfriend. The scene plays out as she starts to divulge the fun afternoon and then tries to take it back as she notices her mom’s reaction. In an interview with Film Comment Garrel admitted that the episode happened to him, and he remembered feeling guilty about it. That is just one of the ways in which this film is so personal, yet the performance by Covenant makes it very light with a performance that feels genuine.

A study on relationships, Jealousy feels both abstract and quite personal. Shot in black and white, the film showcases the many shades of gray within the personal. The acting is at times subtle but clearly depicts the high and low points of flawed relationships with earnest affection by a director who has returned in full effect. The choice of black and white, Garrel said in the interview, comes from his love of silent cinema:  “I’ve made silent movies, I love silent films. They’ve left their mark on me.” When it comes to acting, one can see that he pays painstaking attention to the technical details. The mise-en-scène is one of the main achievements of this film. Also, the film was shot in real anamorphic scope, 35mm. Garrel also specified “for certain close-ups I use special lenses, designed to shoot from very close, which allow faces an incredible expressivity.” A beautiful film indeed, and one that will leave a lasting impression for sure.

Ana Morgenstern

Jealousy has a run time of 77 minutes, is in French with English subtitles and is not rated. The film opens in the South Florida area today, Friday, Sept. 5 at the Tower Theater in Miami, the Miami Beach Cinematheque and in Coral Gables at the Bill Cosford Cinema (all theater names are hotlinks to screening times and dates). The Tower Theater provided an on-line screener for the purpose of this review.

(Copyright 2014 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Ida - 5

Ida, the new film by Pawel Pawlikowski, already stands as a favorite film of 2014 for this writer. I’ve seen it about three times already. It’s a beautifully shot film that more impressively harbors a multi-layered story featuring outstanding performances. My relationship with the film began when the director of the Miami Jewish Film Festival asked me to introduce it during the festival, earlier this year.

A couple of months later I wrote my review. Reverse Shot, a film blog/magazine co-founded by Michael Koresky, a critic whose name I grew familiar with from reading Film Comment and who now holds one of the best jobs any cinephile could desire: staff writer at the greatest home video company ever: The Criterion Collection. After sharing my Blue Is the Warmest Color review with him and receiving some positive feedback, I pitched him a review of Ida for Reverse Shot. He accepted and warned me it would be an intense editing session, and he did not disappoint. The last time someone edited my work with such vigor was when I wrote feature stories for the Miami New Times before the Internet age. It was challenging but refreshing. Above all, I think readers of this blog will still recognize my voice in the final review. Read it by jumping through the headline and by-line below:

Keeping the Faith
By Hans Morgenstern

Now Ida finally arrives in South Florida for a theatrical run. Particularly notable is the fact that it will be screened in that now dying, classic format, 35mm. The Coral Gables Art Cinema is the only movie house of the many theaters in South Florida that will present the rare print. All details about South Florida screenings can be found below. A shout-out to MJFF director Igor Shteyrenberg and Michael for inviting me to explore this movie with a depth I seldom have the luxury to experience, and I still love it. Take that as testament to the strength of this film.

Hans Morgenstern

Ida runs 80 minutes, is in Polish with English subtitles and is rated PG-13 (there are scenes of nudity and references to violence). It opens in South Florida this Friday, June 20, at the following venues:

Miami at Coral Gables Art Cinema (in 35 mm)
Key West at The Tropic Cinema
Fort Lauderdale at The Classic Gateway Theatre
Boca Raton at Living Room, Regal Shadowood
Delray Beach at Movies of Delray,
Lake Worth at Movies at Lake Worth & Lake Worth Playhouse
Expanding 6/27:
And 8/1:

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

smilingfaces_smThe other day I reviewed Hide Your Smiling Faces, an incredible indie film that was picked up by Tribeca Film recently (Film Review: ‘Hide Your Smiling Faces’ presents resonant images of darkness and light of life and death). I’m happy to report a more abridged and slightly easier-to-digest version of the review appears in today’s Miami Herald’s Weekend section (read that version here).

Ahead of our discussion at the end of this month with film critic Amy Taubin, I corresponded with the film’s director, Daniel Patrick Carbone. We got to know each other well enough for an interview, which was published in the Miami New Times’ art and culture blog Cultist, earlier this morning. I was struck by how such a loose-feeling film can also tap into such specific, abstract feelings that I take note of in the review. It’s quite a miracle how some smartly directed improvisation and evocative scenes can come across so specifically. That’s why it makes such a great film for the first “Speaking In Cinema” event at the Miami Beach Cinematheque (see more about the event here).

You can read most of my interview with Carbone by jumping through the Cultist logo below, where he shares tips for those trying to fund a film via Kickstarter and how he felt about having his film picked up by Tribeca:

cultist banner

We dove more into the film than what is in that article. Here are some of the outtakes, which are no less insightful:

Hans Morgenstern: We find out the names of the brothers at the center of the film far along in the movie. Why?

Daniel Patrick Carbone: This is simply due to the way people speak in real life. A conversation between two people, especially two young people, rarely includes first names. I wanted the kids to speak like real kids. They had a lot of freedom to improvise their lines and the result is a more authentic style of speaking. Since there are so few characters in the film, knowing their names wasn’t something I needed to worry about right at the beginning.

HYSF-Carbone-PhotoHM: Is it fair to call this a movie about death? What is your interest in this theme?

That’s absolutely fair, but I’d also add that it’s a film about nature and brotherhood, and using tragic experiences to learn more about yourself and the world around you. I also think it’s a hopeful film. I think the difficult parts about growing up— those unanswerable questions that haunt us as children— are just as formative as the positive moments. I wanted to explore that moment when we realize we aren’t invincible and our actions have consequences. I have very vivid memories of my first experiences with loss and grief, and I think I am better for having experienced what I did. This film is a distillation all of those emotions, good and bad.

* * *

Of course, much more to come, live and in person with Taubin’s inspired voice in the mix (read what she thought of the film in her Tribeca Film Festival recap for Film Comment).

I’ll leave you with one of the clips we plan to share at our discussion:

Hans Morgenstern

Hide Your Smiling Faces opens today at 7 p.m., at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. The director will present the film on April 26 and 27, at 7 p.m. On Tuesday April 29, at 7 p.m.,he, New York film critic Amy Taubin and Miami-based film critic Hans Morgenstern will share the stage in the first installment of the Knight Foundation-sponsored series “Speaking In Cinema” to discuss this film and others.

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


The subtitle to this blog celebrates the organic, hands-on work it takes to bring both music and movies to audiences. I owe my wife credit for coming up with “Handmade with vinyl and celluloid,” as she knows me well enough to understand my passion for the material side of the subject matter covered here. Over the couple of years the Independent Ethos has existed, I have more than noticed the quiet death throes of celluloid. Though vinyl will exist at least until the end of my generation, celluloid is already nearly mythic in its existence. This grew ever more apparent from a couple of articles I recently read in “Film Comment.”

I love celluloid for similar reasons I appreciate vinyl. There indeed exists a handmade, organic craft between it and the medium it captures and keeps us humanly connected with the work. Digital transmission of the man-made art of music and film has always left me worried, like the cautionary heart that has dwelt in the background of sci-fi movies such as the Fly, which deals with the teleportation of people from one location to another via transmission devices that break down every molecule in a person’s body to reconstruct them at another location. Is the result even human? Thus, there is something unsettling about the quality of movies and music as digital computer files, and, I will always argue, it shows. Look no further than the vinyl reviews scattered throughout this blog (Aurally de-flowered by Faust: A review of Faust IV LP reissue, David Bowie’s Space Oddity gets 40th Anniversary vinyl reissue, MGMT grow with Congratulations, Vinyl review: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space reissue).

However, when it comes to film, there is little audience demand can do to keep it alive in the theaters. As institutions of higher learning like Yale tries to preserve film, giant movie chains have quietly dumped their 35mm projectors for digital machines.

In the latest issues of “Film Comment,” several of their forward-thinking critics and writers continue to document the changes in the cinematic experience. In their year-end issue (Jan/Feb 2011, Vol. 47, No. 1), within the collaborative article “State of the Art: Taking the Pulse of Cinema in 2010” and under the sub-headline “Death Watch,” film critic Scott Foundas noted the losses he saw in 35mm. He wrote, “In the course of organizing an Eric Rohmer retrospective last summer, I learn that the U.S. rights holder to his iconic ‘Moral Tales’ … is in the process of dismantling its print rental service and purging its vaults of all 35mm elements … by destroying them.” He also noted that a source at Universal told him the major Hollywood studio has turned to raiding their 35mm warehouse to begin “chopping [movies] up into material to make sleeping bags.”

Check out, a website I found that  shows you how to make a handbag out of 35mm film:

At least they are using a worthy film print for the source material: Jackass (click on the image above for the “How to guide”).

Then there was an article “Rollover Blues, Digital Cinema and Its Discontents” in the Mach/April 2011 issue of “Film Comment” (Vol. 47, No. 2). In the article, Edward E. Crouse writes about he quiet decline of the craftsmen behind 35mm film projectors in movie theaters. Crouse mostly gripes about the loss of the artistry that union projectionists brought to the operation of old-style double projector 35mm presentations, which went out of fashion as long ago as the early seventies, according to the author, with the advent of the platter system of projecting film (click on the image to below for an explainer on how it works). But one point relevant beyond the politics and into the artistry of the film projection came from the observation he made of “a packed house” watching the Black Swan projected in 35mm at a Los Angeles multiplex. He said as much as “a quarter of the frame” was out of focus, and what he described after his observation came as little surprise to me:

More jarring than the hazy focus, though, was the fact no one in the crowd spoke up. I was about to collar a manager, but decided not to. Instead I opted to risk serious nausea and observe the audience reaction. As the end credits rolled, the blur was still there . No one said a word. And when no one says anything, it means that everything’s fine, right?

These articles and my recent years experiencing movies in my favorite place to see them: from the seat of a cushy chair in a movie theater, has made me pause to wonder about the relevance of the “celluloid” part of the subtitle of this blog. First off, I am fine taking my appreciation of celluloid to my grave, even if no one else can appreciate the format, hence do not expect the subtitle to go away. As Crouse points out, does it really matter much anymore? Things have changed, and no one seems to notice or care.

I’ve witnessed some horrible things done with 35mm in my many years at the cinema. I remember seeing Takeshi Kitano’s version of The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi with stuttering sound. This was a projection issue, as the soundtrack on 35mm runs along the frame of the film (see the soundtrack imbedded between a movie still from Inception and the perforations of the film strip below). Despite numerous complaints during the movie, those running this multiplex of a particular theater chain— I believe the Sunrise Cinemas in Plantation— could not get it right. The theater manager gave me a pass to see another movie afterward.

Then there was the time I was two-thirds of the way through Luc Besson’s The Messenger— a two-and-half-hour mediocre epic— at the now long gone Town and Country AMC in Kendall, and I watched the film print sputter before burning away before my eyes. Here’s a demonstration of what that looks like:

There’s no rewind and replay for that. I would have to go back to the theater to see how it ended (I think I used my resulting free pass to see something else and later sneaked into an in-progress screening of the Messenger just to see how it ended).

In “Rollover Blues,” Crouse notes the lack of experience of the new breed of “manjectionists” that both run the theater and make sure the movies start on time with the push of a button. It’s a sorry state I noticed repeatedly during my early years as a college student when I followed the new wave of American independents by the likes of Tarantino, Anderson and Soderberg, to name a few, not to mention great foreign works by directors like Yimou, Jacquot and Almodovar. During many experiences watching 35mm, I had grown tired of the scratched up prints I had to suffer when I caught movies toward the end of their runs, a time I have always preferred over premiere weekends, as the movie houses would never be so crowded.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more than ever a deterioration in today’s 35mm projection standards. I first noticed it at the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema. Digital screenings there had grown more frequent as 35mm screenings became more scarce, and when I did see them, something inevitably went wrong. As the digital screenings improved in picture quality over the years, the rare 35mm screenings became, more than ever, botched experiences.

During a short series of screenings dedicated to Ingmar Bergman at the Cosford, I watched Wild Strawberries from reels that obviously had varied histories. From the apparent scratches in the film at the start of the reels to a tonal shift in the shading of the monochromatic black and white the film was shot in, I felt, why should they even bother showing this debacle? Then there was the second-run screening of I’m Not There. I hazard to guess that a student volunteer must have put the reels together because no professional projectionist would have spliced the reels together before the cue dots that, back in the old days instructed the projectionist to switch between reels. Instead of seeing the black dot flash in the upper right corner of the screen, the film jumped a few beats to the next scene, making for a jarring movie experience. So even a cinema catering to the art house crowd can slip up.

Just last week, I especially noticed changes in the multiplex with digital versus 35mm projection. Out of four movies I caught at three different theaters in the Miami-Dade area three were digital and one 35mm. Two were bad experiences, including the single 35mm experience: Insidious at the Regal Kendall 9. Let me say that the flashes of brilliant red in the demon’s face probably would never have looked as good or felt as startling on today’s digital format. But then, as expected, there were the deep black vertical lines that lingered on the screen for too long during several scenes (see an exaggerated example of a scratched film image to the right). These lines are the result of dust particles landing between the print and the lens. The grain of dust will gouge the print and leave a vertical scratch going across many frames as the film passed through. It’s a predictable sign of a lack of care to the print while at the movie house. It will probably end up trashed at the end of its run. There was also at least one repaired break in the celluloid.

Prior to the Insidious screening I caught Sucker Punch at a local multiplex that has already gone all digital: the Cobb Dolphin 19 Cinemas. After Insidious, I caught Hanna at the AMC Sunset Place 24, a theater, like the Regal Kendall 9, that projects partly in digital and partly in 35mm. Hanna was shown in digital, and like Sucker Punch, looked so clean, I barely missed the character of 35mm. Granted, Hanna wasn’t the hybrid of green screen digital “cartoon” mixed with live action that defined Sucker Punch. The only moments that may have lost some of the impact of 35mm were the title cards, punctuated by a harsh sonic sting, of the title: “HANNA” scrawled in skinny white letters against a bright red background would fill the screen from one corner to another, framing the action from the start of the movie to its end. It had an over-the-top, campy effect key to setting the film’s frivolous though intense tone, and it would have looked and felt awesome on 35mm. Still, Sucker Punch and Hanna, for the most part, felt like fine experiences in digital.

However, the last movie I saw that week, also at Sunset Place, Source Code, was digital, and even as a digital presentation, it still had some serious issues. Just like Crouse’s experience watching Black Swan, part of the frame was out of focus, and no one seemed to notice, and this was not even a film print. Bringing this to the attention of two employees at the start of the screening resulted in no action, so I suffered through the movie. It jarred me out of the experience upon many occasions. To top it off, when I complained at customer service, the girl at the desk was leaning over texting on the phone with some other employee sitting on the other side. They questioned why I had not complained earlier. After told I them I did but nothing was done, and I didn’t want to miss the movie any more than I already had, they forked over a pass to another screening. The staff at these places: another of the many reasons multiplexes offer horrible experiences. I could go on a whole other blog post on that alone.

So, even though the digital transition cannot always ensure a clean image, the majority of the screw-ups at screenings come from the incompetent use of 35mm, which happens more often than not. I must acknowledge one exception as far as quality 35mm presentation in my region of Miami-Dade County: The Coral Gables Art Cinema. It is probably too soon to put all my hopes of celluloid into one movie house, as I have only seen one 35mm film at that theater. Still, when I saw the White Material there last year, the 35mm projection was flawless.

In his article, Crouse notes the scarcity of some of those nineties-era films I saw as scratched up and abused prints in the multiplex. Well, the reality of those damaged prints, and the studios’ lack of interest in archival servicing, has since come to reality. Crouse cites Mark Toscano, a film preservationist (check out his blog “Preservation Insanity” for a real feel of the state of 35mm) who told him, “Phone calls are now coming in requesting prints, not for older films but of things like Magnolia.” Crouse also said independent art houses with 35 mm capability, like the Coral Gables Art Cinema, are few and far between. “DVD and Blu-ray seem to be the destiny of independent exhibition,” Crouse stated in his article.

Here is where a reserve myself to not deny my enjoyment of cinema just because a movie is not shown in 35mm. As my experiences have laid out, digital does not always mean an exhibition without flaws. Even the Cosford messed it up when I tried to see Antichrist there (Open letter to IFC: send 35 mm to UM’s Cosford Cinema). However, the days when directors like Stanley Kubrick would actually visit movie theaters or plant spies in order to see whether his movies are done justice are long gone. More than ever, it is the passionate indie theater owner doing justice to cinema, even if it’s all in digital.

In a recent “SunPost” cover story celebrating the new home of the Miami Beach Cinematheque on the ground floor of Miami Beach City Hall, the theater’s founder Dana Keith, seems to have long come to terms with the movie-going experience sans celluloid. His venue, going back to its existence in a storefront tucked away along Espanola Way on South Beach, has only ever projected in digital. In the article “Burden of Dreams” by local film reporter and critic Ruben Rosario, Keith stated, “The art of cinema, to me, should be shown on a screen where it controls you rather than you controlling it. [Watching films] on television, you’re in control. In the cinema you’re allowing the artist to take control, and that’s very important, because to me these are creations by an artist.”

Part of my coming to terms with digital screenings was at a preview screening for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (read my review here) all alone in Keith’s theater. I might have noticed some haloing in the images— if I looked for it. But when I allowed myself to be swept away by the movie and its stirring pace and imagery, who cares? The theater has comfortable tiered seats and projects digital very well on a large screen and offers enveloping acoustics. So coming to terms with the death of celluloid comes with accepting digital without prejudice. When the passion is there in the presentation, the quality will follow, be it in digital or 35mm.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

I was composing my list of top 20 films of 2010 for the annual “Film Comment” reader’s poll and Criterion DVD contest, a tradition I have participated in since 2005, when I decided to look into why Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has yet to see release in the US. I had read great things about the movie since its screening for Western audiences at Cannes last year (the director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is Thai). Plus, I loved the poetry of his 2008 film Syndromes and a Century, which I first read about in a lengthy article on the director in “Film Comment.” I seem to be the first person to “like” the fact that Amazon has created a page for the blu-ray version of this film, so it seems to be far from finding distribution in the US.

During my search for this film on-line, I happened upon the official trailer with English subs. In only two-and-half minutes, this little teaser for the film seems to capture the poetry of Weerasethakul’s craft. View it here:

I am tempted to include the trailer alone in my top 20. What is this film about? Well, on the surface, it seems to explore that burning existential theme of mortality. The subject heads to the Thai countryside to die after learning he has acute kidney failure. While there, he explores his primordial surroundings only to encounter his past lives. But as with the films of Weerasethakul, there are so many more layers. His films seem to activate multiple levels of consciousness in the viewer. They unfold in a place somewhere beyond straight narrative. By not trying to mimic the “real world” as most mainstream films do, Weerasethakul’s cinema works on a more vibrant level of existence. In effect, I have never felt more alive and aware while watching one of his movies, which draws repeated viewings like a well-crafted music album invites repeated listens. I hope to finally see this movie in some form in the US. I will keep you up-dated.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

In their most recent on-line issue out now, Film Comment has picked out two capsule reviews of films that I wrote in my posting about my favorite films of 2009.  The complete feature can be viewed by clicking through here. It turns out they chose to publicize my views on two of the strongest kiddie films this year: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Ponyo (pictured). Now that I recall, I rated four children’s movies of 2009 in my top 20, which also included Up and Where the Wild Things Are. If I had not forgotten that Coraline came out that year, I would have included that movie as well.

Anyway, here is what they printed:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (#4)
No one does awkward as artistically as Wes Anderson, and his foray into stop-motion-generated storytelling raises his lovable, damaged characters to a new level. The challenge of appreciating Anderson’s work depends on how willing the audience is to acknowledge their own faults in the self-deprecating humor that drives his movies. With Fantastic Mr. Fox, he ingeniously disguises that premise behind fuzzy animals with human qualities. However, the film never sugarcoats their animal behavior with innocent cuteness. The sharp delivery of dialogue between the characters sometimes slips toward wild unpredictable primal behavior, which wittily treads the line of silliness and danger. Unlike so many movies for kids, this movie felt organic and authentic, and what do kids need most but true, heart-felt honesty, even if that truth might have its dark places?—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL

The revered Hayao Miyazaki returns with another animated fable that deals with man’s ecological impact on the planet couched within a love story at its most innocent. Miyazaki and his team at Ghibli Studios indulge in their talents of hand-drawn animation that eschews technology with just as much sincerity and pure love as that between the boy and the fish. The results are amazing and beyond what digital work can capture.—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL

I have been hooked on sharing yearly film recaps to Film Comment’s annual Reader’s Poll since 2006. At first, the chance to win free DVDs from the Criterion Collection drew me in to contribute. But then I found myself instantly inspired to justify my choices for whatever films I considered to be the 20 best of that year, and wouldn’t you know it? The editors decided to kick-off their 2005 reader’s poll feature with my observation of the potency behind David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. They used a couple others from my list that year, too, and I have continued to contribute to their poll every year since.

Film Comment continues to pick out a handful of the capsule opinions I share with them on an annual basis (though, no, I have not won any free Criterion DVDs). Though I have never gathered the nerve to propose an article for them, despite my background in film studies, it has always been an honor to be selected by a group who publish some of the most thoughtful film criticism in the U.S. And seriously, if I can do it, you can too (I’m still trying to convince some fellow friends and film lovers to join in with the poll, you know who you are. Maybe next year…?).

(Copyright 2009 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)