At the end of the year, the things I look forward to more than family get-togethers or delicious holiday meals are…Year-in-Film montages. I first stumbled upon these videos when I was in High School, thanks to editors like Matt Shapiro, Kees van Dijkhuizen, Ben Zuk, and David Ehrlich. These montages remind us of what we love about our favorite films while introducing us to new discoveries — and, wonderfully, putting each of these beautiful moments in the context of a greater cinematic whole.
In 2013, I decided to try my hand at creating montages for my Top 25 films of the year, and was invited by my friend Ed Travis to talk about my latest cut for 2016. It’s always been one of my passions to discuss and share film with others, and in editing these videos I can share my love for these films while directly engaging with the material. And, in distilling the emotional rollercoaster of each film to five or ten seconds, I rediscover what I love the most about them — and being able to share that is immensely rewarding.
The most agonizing process is choosing the song. I want to draw awareness to the fact the viewer is on a journey to the top of the list. We’re building somewhere. At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that the other films are somehow worth less than each other — each film is a rewarding experience worth every minute of your time. I really lucked out last year with Ludovico Einaudi’s “Experience,” featured in Mommy, which I saw too late to include in the video for 2014. That song was amazingly propulsive and manic, yet found such quiet moments of tenderness. For 2016, I wanted to capture the passion that was at the heart of my three favorite films: La La Land, Silence, and especially The Handmaiden, which is its own cornucopia of surprise and emotion. Without giving away any spoilers, the tracks I used (“Wedding,” “My Tamako, “My Sookee”) play at The Handmaiden’s greatest emotional climax, an extremely liberating moment for the characters that I felt spoke to the larger theme I wanted to posit for the year. Inside all of us, there is a passion that refuses to let things be. That despite reality’s efforts, we’re driven to fight for what we want: to chase our dreams, to love who we love, to never say die. That movies are an invitation, albeit a largely voyeuristic one, to explore our dreams and desires — and to realize them, if only for an instant.
Once the song is selected, the list is finalized. I’m constantly trying to fit in last-minute viewings to catch up for the year; the last one was Silence, just making the cut at the beginning of January. Once that’s all wrapped up, everything pretty much falls into place. Some films are remarkably easy, others are incredibly difficult. Foreign films are their own uphill battle — I pull all my clips from trailers, and unsubtitled trailers for these films are surprisingly hard to find. Each trailer usually yields about forty or so clips, and from there I focus on rhythm and timing to the song while ensuring each film’s allotted seconds tell as complete of a story, or convey as much of a mood as the original film as possible. I try and edit as quickly as I can, working around my job, other projects — and, in the case of 2016, planning my wedding! — with the goal of having a final cut by mid-February. I feel like creating a tribute to the past year decreases in relevance the deeper you get into the new one.
Luckily, this one came in right on time, in the week before the Oscars and at a point when most of these films are just now debuting on Blu-ray or Streaming services. As with each of my cuts, I’m extremely proud of how this one turned out — and I’m very much excited to hear what folks think about each of these selections. Hopefully, people will be encouraged to share their own Top 25 or even be inspired to cut together their own videos — and next year I can be introduced to some new favorites of my own.