Moments Out Of Time

In 1990, I thought I might want to be a film critic. Having a proper deference to academic-sounding writing but no actual education in or exposure to film theory, I picked up a serious-looking magazine called Film Comment. Some of the articles were impenetrable, some were intriguing, and some were, well, wrong-headed. Mostly they were about films and filmmakers I had never heard of. I felt chastened by this, but not as much as I might have. But I was hooked by one item, which contributed to me subscribing for several years (the number of periodicals that I have ever subscribed to in my life can be counted on the fingers of one hand). This feature was called "Moments Out Of Time." It consisted of several short entries—most only a single sentence—describing a single image, sound, expression, movement, or dialogue from a single scene from a recent film that stuck with the viewer. The text-to-image ratio of Film Comment was much higher than the other magazines in the "Entertainment" section of the rack (a commendable quality I thought then and still think), but the choppy, USA-Today-esque appearance of this feature (the titles were boldfaced) was comforting to the casual reader, and even my intellectual puritanism was softened by it.

The chief virtue of "Moments Out Of Time" was that it demonstrated that even critics deeply immersed in the history of foreign cinema waves are seized by the same moments and emotions that make cinema compelling to everyone else. Years before the internet and meme culture came along, here were serious film scholars saying they wanted everyone to know they can't stop thinking about "the way Alec Baldwin lets Junior’s mouth fall open, during moments of repose, in Miami Blues."

Imagine my delight, then, as I discovered that someone had archived all the entries in the "Moments Out Of Time" series. When VacuumSlayer at LGM made a post soliciting 20 films that "stuck with you," I knew exactly what she meant. Here's what I came up with. They aren't the "top 20," my favorite 20, or the most recent 20. They're the first 20 that come to mind and for which I have ready access to representative images.

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