I started this. And now I will finish it.
When I first suggested the notion of fifty lists in fifty-days, it wasn’t the most considerate of requests. While it might be the “most wonderful time of the year,” it also tends to be one of the busiest. But with the extraordinary efforts of Susie Gerhard (chiefly responsible for all of the heavy lifting) and Ryan Prendiville (and the contributions of fellow Fandorian’s Ted Hope, Kevin B. Lee and Alece Oxendine—notable list-makers all, admittedly—along with lists from over four-dozen critics and filmmakers), we’ve arrived at the end of the assortment pack.
We intentionally deviated from the usual “top tens” (though there was a bit of that, too) and instead ventured into (mostly) category-specific best-of collections and “not-tens.” For the final installment, we present a Fandor-specific angle: the seven most-viewed features and shorts in 2014. If you’ve always wanted a peak behind the curtain, read on.
1. Burning Bush (2013) dir. Agnieszka Holland
It was a year where nearly everything more-than-doubled: the audience, viewership and the number of hours viewed. The library, though, only grew by half as much (by design) but we added many remarkable partners: Milestone Films (by way of Oscilloscope), Strand Releasing, Cinelicious Pics, Drafthouse Films (by way of Cinedigm), Something Weird, Music Box Films, Shout! Factory (by way of Brainstorm Media), Severin Films and, in an unprecedented arrangement with Hulu, the Criterion Collection (along with numerous direct agreements with filmmakers and producers, over 100 in all). Above everything else, our day-and-date with Kino Lorber (concurrent with the theatrical release at Film Forum) of Burning Bush was the very best. Not by a little. A lot.
2. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) dir. Werner Herzog
You may have noticed that (with the help of the remarkable Meyer Shwarzstein) we licensed a number of Werner Herzog films. Sixteen in all (seventeen if you count both versions of Nosferatu). Great films, of course. Quite a few of them (Fitzcarraldo and My Best Fiend in particular) were watched by many, many people. But Aguirre, the Wrath of God—the first we debuted—ultimately was the most watched of all. [We’ve since licensed another, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, from Music Box Films.]
3. Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell to Earth (2011) dir. Ed Haynes
Sometimes, if you have the right subject matter and material that has not really been covered elsewhere, a documentary can (in industry-lingo) out-perform. The Man Who Fell to Earth is one of those films. Week after week, new audiences discover it. If you have any interest in Eno whatsoever (and you should), this documentary is for you.
4. That’s Sexploitation! (2013) dir. Frank Henenlotter
As part of our illustrious pact with the legendary Something Weird, we debuted their extensive documentary on the history of sexploitation. We know what our audience likes. Over the weeks ahead, many of the films featured in the documentary will be added as well. I only wish this would’ve happened before Mike Vraney passed away last January. [Full disclosure, not that one is really needed: I used to screen 16mm prints from Vraney’s immense collection at various locations throughout Seattle in the 1990s.]
5. The Strange Little Cat (2013) dir. Ramon Zürcher
Another day-and-date with our good friends at kimstim, The Strange Little Cat was boosted by Kevin Lee’s remarkable video essay (who claimed it was the “best film of the year so far,” high praise and entirely justifiable). It ultimately ended-up at number two on his best-of for 2014. If you haven’t seen this quiet little film, you should. Take Kevin’s (and my) word for it.
6. Sun Don’t Shine (2012) dir. Amy Seimetz
If you happen to be traveling on Virgin America over the next four months, venture over to the “Foreign/Documentary” section and find the three films listed as Fandor In-Flight. There, you’ll find the excellent Sun Don’t Shine (from Factory 25, purveyor of many great films) along with Crimes Against Humanity (which would’ve appeared on this list if it had debuted on Fandor earlier in the year) and We Are Mari Pepa (from FiGa Films, another grand partner). Amy Seimetz’s feature-length directorial debut is a film that stays with you.
7. Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014) dir. Josephine Decker
A day-and-date with Cinelicious Pics, a company new to the distribution racket. . .but a quick look at their site and you’ll discover that they’ve already pulled together an uncompromising and unconventional library. A pair of Josephine Decker films (the other, Butter on the Latch, debuted the same day) opened in New York and premiered on Fandor, too. They both did really, really well. It doesn’t hurt that Richard Brody has been a champion of Decker’s work (as well as the films of Nathan Silver, Eliza Hittman, Alex Ross Perry, Rithy Panh, Robert Greene, Tim Sutton and many other phenomenal filmmakers).
1. Human Remains (1998) dir. Jay Rosenblatt
There weren’t many filmmakers I’d wanted to license for the Fandor service more than Jay Rosenblatt. Unsurprisingly, once his short films started to appear (after a few years of effort), audiences followed. The unclassifiable Human Remains ultimately was watched somewhat more than the others (but Phantom Limb wasn’t that far behind. . . and both are essential viewing, along with all of his other films as well).
2. Meet Marlon Brando (1965) dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
Adding a handful of Maysles films was a definite highlight of the year. The subsequent press around the debut of Meet Marlon Brando certainly helped to raise awareness of this absolutely incredible portrait of the perils of celebrity (as did a program at Cinefamily that included this and other great shorts).
3. Jerry’s Deli (1976) dir. Tom Palazzolo
Nearly all of the most-viewed films are only available on Fandor when they initially appear. But Jerry’s Deli has been freely available on YouTube for quite some time. A well-made film never ages, admittedly (and this would pair wonderfully with Matt Mahurin’s documentary on Shopsin’s, I Like Killing Flies, if we could ever get it). If Palazzolo’s work is unfamiliar to you, definitely remedy that right now.
4. The Sand Storm (2014) dir. Jason Wishnow
Throughout the year, we debuted three shorts day-and-date with their initial screenings at three film festivals. Todd Rohal’s Rat Pack Rat [Sundance] would’ve appeared on this list if it had been available on Fandor a little longer. Daniel Laabs’ Easy [SXSW] nearly made it, too. But Jason Wishnow’s The Sand Storm [Telluride Film Festival] was enhanced by a considerable amount of press around the involvement (and controversy) of Ai Weiwei and a desire (from the assorted folks who contributed to one of the most successful Kickstarter short film campaigns ever) to see it the moment that it premiered. They did.
5. The House at the Edge of the Galaxy (2013) dir. Gleb Osatinski
I have attended Independent Film Week in New York for the past few years and, on each occasion, I meet a handful of folks that ultimately find their way on to Fandor. Gleb Osatinski was one of those individuals. We talked after a panel and he sent me a link to his short film shortly thereafter. I liked it. We licensed it. He promoted it. People watched it. If that seems overly simplistic, sometimes actions and results are that straightforward. We later became involved (via FIX) in a crowdfunding campaign for his latest film, The Quantified Self.
6. Neighbours (1952) dir. Norman McLaren
On the one-hundred birthday of the extraordinary animator Norman McLaren, we launched our partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. That effort justifiably holds the sixth slot on the list (and a great film it is) with his Academy Award-winning Neighbours. McLaren produced his most renowned films during his tenure at the NFB and Neighbours is but one of many (and several others are on Fandor, unsurprisingly).
… and a four-way tie for 7. [in reverse-chronological order]
Wüstenspringmaus (2002) dir. Jim Finn
Kimono (2000) dir. Hal Hartley
Dottie Gets Spanked (1994) dir. Todd Haynes
Un chant d’amour (1950) dir. Jean Genet
At this point, what more can be written? An unusual grouping, of course, but it is an accurate reflection of our eclectic audience. Four very different films (and four very different filmmakers) but each with an unmistakable appeal and a certain uneasiness in their unconventional storytelling. Arguably, that could describe many of the films that could—and should–be discovered on Fandor.