Counting down to our Year in Review issue, we present our picks in a variety of genres, wrapping up tomorrow with the year's worst movies.
The Friend J. Hoberman once described Krzysztof Kieslowski's Camera Buff as the Rosetta Stone of eastern European cinema; by the same token, Yilmaz Güney's 1975 masterpiece (the highlight of Doc Films’s revelatorydirector retro in February) could be described as the Rosetta Stone of third-world cinema. Güney plays a middle-class radical who grows increasingly alienated from both his professional colleagues and the impoverished peasants to whom he's sworn allegiance. The character's dilemma mirrors that of the third-world artist celebrated on the global stage. It also represents a powerful autobiographical statement from Güney, a Turkish movie star who courted persecution by proclaiming his Kurdish roots and aiding guerrilla groups. —Ben Sachs
Juvenile Court If you're familiar with Frederick Wiseman only from his recent explorations of French dance culture—Crazy Horse (2011), La Danse—The Paris Opera Ballet (2009)—this 1973 study of the Memphis juvenile justice system, revived in March by Chicago Filmmakers, may seem oppressively drab, shot in black-and-white and running 144 minutes. But it's a masterpiece, immersing you in the world of a single courtroom as the presiding judge tries to sort out the facts of each case and decide what might help keep bad kids from becoming worse adults. Wiseman's silent observation of the support staff as they counsel incoming offenders contributes to his complex view of the court, a place where every sort of social problem seems to converge. —J.R. Jones
Wake in Fright
Wake in Fright I wrote at length about this unearthed Australian masterpiece earlier this year, but I couldn't resist mentioning it here as well. For my money, the revival tour of Wake in Fright was one of the major highlights of this or any other moviegoing year. The film's panoramic shots of the barren Australian outback were daunting enough when viewed on video—the magic of celluloid opened things up that much more. Hopefully it earns its rightful spot next to the likes of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout as essential Australian cinema. —Drew Hunt