The Contenders 2013
November 4, 2013–January 16, 2014
The exhibition is supported by BNP Paribas.
Media sponsorship is provided by The Hollywood Reporter.
Related Film Screenings
A Touch of Sin
2013. China/Japan. Directed by Jia Zhangke. The incomparable Jia Zhang-ke (the subject of a MoMA retrospective in 2010) shocked audiences at this year's Cannes Film Festival with this violent, deeply angry film, in which his typical concern for society's marginalized and oppressed is pushed into genre territory. Four overlapping stories, each inspired by actual incidents of violence, take on the style of popular Chinese wuxia action films, with their sole avenging warrior. This trenchant critique of China's modern economic miracle—and the increasingly violent reactions to its frustrations—links stories from country to city, men and women, young and old. Jia uses the potent martial arts aesthetic to slyly expose the dangerous underbelly of contemporary Chinese society. In Mandarin; English subtitles. 133 min.
2013. USA. Directed by Spike Jonze. Simultaneously cooly digital and richly analog in both theme and visualization, Her is a sublime rumination on a nearly-here future. It is also quite possibly the most romantic film of the year. Joaquin Phoenix reinvents himself once again as a lonely writer, an everyman who falls in love with his new operating system (voiced with seductive grace by Scarlett Johansson). Jonze resists sensationalizing their initial "meeting" and subsequent flirtations, courtship, and full-fledged relationship; they are as natural a couple as any of their corporeally normative counterparts, and for a time, they make each other very happy. Her is a sweet, sad lesson in love for the social-media century. Courtesy of Warner Bros. 120 min.
2012. USA. Directed by Noah Baumbach. There are a great many pleasures to be had in Frances Ha—the delightfully gangly physicality of Greta Gerwig’s comic turn, the revelation of Mickey Sumner as her inseparable soulmate, the New York that hasn’t looked as lovely or romantic in black and white since Manhattan—but paramount among them is the music of Georges Delerue, whose songs are the indelible, nostalgic soundtrack of such legendary French New Wave films as Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, Love on the Run, and Day for Night. Frances Ha has that same sense of joy and melancholy—a combination so very rarely found in cinema today—and it is the source of the humor and humanity in Gerwig’s beautifully modulated performance, and in the script that she and Baumbach wrote together. As for Baumbach, who has also brought us contemporary classics like The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, Margot at the Wedding, and Kicking and Screaming, we think Truffaut would tip his cap. Courtesy of Paramount Vantage. 86 min.
All Is Lost
2013. USA. Directed by J. C. Chandor. Writer-director Chandor appears again in our Contenders series (after Margin Call in 2011) with his second feature. This existential seafaring drama follows the struggles of a lone sailor, lost in the Indian Ocean when a surreal twist of fate results in life-threatening damage to his boat. Struggling against storms, sharks, and the fading hope of rescue, he faces his impending mortality methodically, executing inventive survival procedures with escalating desperation. The film rests on the compelling power of what amounts to a silent performance by Robert Redford. This career-redefining vehicle for the 77-year-old actor belongs to an increasingly significant category of late-in-life triumphs by long-famed international stars, including, most recently, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in Amour (2012) and the recent work of Clint Eastwood. The film's acting and direction are safe bets for Academy Award consideration. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions. 106 min.
Inside Llewyn Davis
2013. USA. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. Inside Llewyn Davis, the story of a singer-songwriter struggling for his music to be heard and a pitch-perfect evocation of the early 1960s New York folk scene, stands in the pantheon of great Coen brothers movies. Inspired, presumably, by Bob Dylan’s wonderfully evocative memoir Chronicles, and by the careers of Dave Van Ronk and other local folk heroes of the time, the film marks a startling breakthrough for the actor Oscar Isaac in the titular role, along with wry comic turns by Cary Mulligan as his vitriolic on-and-off girlfriend, John Goodman as a Falstaffian dope fiend—and one of the finest film performances by an orange tabby cat in one of the most beautiful train sequences in cinema history. Courtesy of CBS Films. 105 min.
Footsteps in Jerusalem
2013. Israel. Directed by David Perlov, Dan Geva, David Ofek, Nadav Lapid, Benjamin Freidenberg, Moran Ifergan, Yarden Karmin, Amichai Chasson and Elad Schwartz, Boaz Frankel and Yair Agmon, Nayef Hammoud and Yotam Kislev. Footsteps in Jerusalem is not only an homage to one of Israel’s finest documentarians, David Perlov, but also a response by the graduates and students of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem—one of the finest film schools in the world—to Perlov’s landmark 1963 short In Jerusalem and to the radical upheavals the Old City has faced during the past 50 years. Introduced on December 16 by the school’s Director, Renen Schorr, as well one of its filmmakers, Moran Ifergan, Footsteps in Jerusalem opens with Perlov’s classic vérité documentary, followed by newly produced vignettes by the acclaimed Nadav Lapid (Policeman) and others.
2013. USA. Directed by Rick Rowley. Dirty Wars follows investigative war reporter Jeremy Scahill to the frontlines of America's covert war on terror in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Washington, D.C. After hearing that innocent people were killed in the nighttime raid of a wedding party by secret forces in rural Afghanistan, Scahill discovered video footage documenting the event, and probed deeper to uncover the truth behind the incident. His investigation broadens to reveal how U.S. warfare tactics have dramatically changed since the covert military unit Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was formed in 1980, and following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, to involve night raids, torture, and drone strikes. Director Rowley, co-founder of Big Noise Films, who has made award-winning films such as This Is What Democracy Looks Like, shows how America’s covert actions erode trust globally and adversely affect ordinary citizens at home and abroad. Dirty Wars won the 2013 Sundance Film Festival cinematography award. Courtesy of Sundance Selects. 87 min.
2013. USA. Directed by Andrew Bujalski. Andrew Bujalski’s revelatory fourth feature is set over the course of a chess software competition in 1980, as teams of zealous programmers watch their processors battling each other to checkmate. The style of the day is painstakingly re-created, from refrigerator-sized computers and hairstyles to the image quality; Bujalski shot the film on Sony AVC3260, one of the first analog video cameras. What begins as a mockumentary for the analog at heart unexpectedly achieves both deadpan hilarity and profundity. When a programmer detects volition—could it be consciousness?—in one of the programs, the film evolves into a metaphysical meditation on the oddity of a world dominated by machines—something of which contemporary viewers, with our Google Glass and endless connectivity, should take note. Courtesy of Kino Lorber. 92 min.
2013. USA. Directed by Brian Helgeland. 42 is a moving, authentic dramatization of Jackie Robinson’s nascent career in professional baseball. Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, chose Robinson, Olympic athlete and Negro League star, to be the first black man to participate in the "big leagues" of American’s national pastime. Rickey had compared the league's segregation with the fascism that the country had just defeated in World War II. Robinson became the National League Rookie of the Year, and his exemplary play over the following decade made him one of the greatest symbols of equality in the nation’s history. Courtesy of Warner Bros. 128 min.
2012. France/Great Britain/USA. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel. Courtesy of the Cinema Guild. 87 min.
The Bling Ring
2013. USA. Directed by Sofia Coppola. With Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang. Coppola's film, based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins," by Nancy Jo Sales, follows a posse of bored, entitled, and drugged-out Los Angeles teens as they break into the homes of their fave celebrities in order to steal designer handbags and shoes. These fabulous acquisitions feed the teens' pitiable need to wear the same labels as peculiar heroes like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The last film completed by the late cinematographer Harris Savides, The Bling Ring is alive with striking sunsets and palm-tree vistas that shadow these young intruders as they rifle through closets filled with Vuittons and Chanels. Coppola's evenhanded treatment makes no judgments, but builds a compelling case for a misquided generation hooked on selfies and celebrity. Courtesy of A24 Films. 90 min.
Short Term 12
2013. USA. Directed by Destin Cretton. Courtesy of Cinedigm Entertainment. 96 min.
Mother of George
2013. USA. Directed by Andrew Dosunmu. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Pictures. 107 min.
Stories We Tell
2012. Canada. Directed by Sarah Polley. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions. 108 min.
Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1
2013. USA. Directed by Lloyd Kaufman. Courtesy of Starz!/Troma Films. 86 min.
La Grande belleza (The Great Beauty)
2013. Italy. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Courtesy of Janus Films.
Blue Is the Warmest Color
2013. France/Belgium/Spain. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Courtesy of Sundance Selects. 179 min.
2011. China. Directed by Pema Tseden. Courtesy of Icarus Films. 88 min.
2013. Chile/Spain. Directed by Sebastián Lelio. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions. 110 min.
Duran Duran: Unstaged
2011. USA. David Lynch. 121 min.
2012. USA. Paul Greengrass. 134 min.
Weekend of a Champion
1971/2012. Great Britain/France. Frank Simon. 93 min.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
2013. USA. Woody Allen. 98 min.
2013. Great Britain. Stephen Frears. 93 min.
The Place Beyond the Pines
2013. USA. Derek Cianfrance. 140 min.
20 Feet from Stardom
2013. USA. Morgan Neville. 91 min.
The Act of Killing
2012. Denmark/Norway. Joshua Oppenheimer. 115 min.
12 Years a Slave
2013. USA/UK. Steve McQueen. 133 min.
2013. USA. Alfonso Cuarón. 91 min.
2013. USA. Nicole Holofcener. 93 min.
August: Osage County
2013. USA. 130 min.
2013. USA. 153 min.
Cutie and the Boxer
2013. USA. Zachary Heinzerling. 82 min.
2013. USA. Richard Linklater. 109 min.
2012. Saudi Arabia/Germany. Haifaa Al-Mansour. 112 min.
2012. Austria/USA. Jem Cohen. 107 min.
2013. USA. Ryan Coogler. 85 min.
2013. USA. Peter Berg. 121 min.
2013. USA. Alexander Payne. 115 min.
2013. USA. Teller. 80 min.