Polls and surveys

The best online videos of 2009:
Individual critics’ and curators’ choices

» Read the overview

Nick Bradshaw
Sight & Sound

Adam Curtis’s blog

History lessons, archive arcana and a crucial open-eyed perspective on global affairs: the documentary essayist’s new blog is a multimedia bonanza, showcasing both finished work (this year’s It Felt Like a Kiss) and the raw material for ideas-in-progress.

Fire & Rain: The Viennale trailer 2009 James Benning; 1 min

A first taste of Benning’s switch to digital video, and another in the Viennale festival’s excellent series of film artists’ commissions, following last year’s criss-cross montage from Jean-Luc Godard.

Phantoms of Nabua Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 11 mins

Lightning, flaming footballs and a screen on fire – one of several parts of Weerasethakul’s multi-screen Primitive installation which were showcased online.

LoopLoop Patrick Bergeron; 5 mins

A train-trip through space recut as a memory-ride through time: the most elastic use of split-screen I’ve seen.

Combo Blu & David Ellis; 8 mins

More real-world surrealism from al-fresco animator Blu.

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Michael Brooke
Screenonline, BFI National Archive, UK

Zoltán Huszárik on YouTube

Though he’s one of the greatest poets of European cinema of the last four decades, little of Huszárik’s work has been legitimately released on DVD even in his native Hungary. However, the wordless shorts Elégia (1965; 19 mins) and A Piacere (1976; 20 mins) have been uploaded to YouTube, as has his second and final feature Csontváry (1979; 109 mins) – albeit in Hungarian with a Czech voiceover. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and Huszárik has never been one for verbosity: his visual genius still gleams.

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Ian Christie
Professor of Film History, Birkbeck, UK

London's Screen Archive YouTube channel

This channel is devoted to bringing a sample of films form the network of archives that make up London’s Screen Archives, and already includes a remarkable range of material, ranging from Robert Paul’s Blackfriars Bridge of 1996 (showing his old school in the background), up through an extract from Claude Friese-Greene’s The Open Road, to more recent films from the London borough archives. A wonderful panorama of London that shows the value of YouTube as an archival bazaar.

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Mark Cosgrove
Head of Programme, Watershed Bristol

Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!) Fede Alvarez; 5 mins

Demonstrates that you can make something cheaply but effectively, get noticed and signed up for the ‘real’ world.

Stanza homepage

This artist is quite possible the Picasso of the internet.

Berlin Horse Malcolm Legrice 1970; 7 mins

I rediscovered this and realised that it was great that the internet could provide access to work that might become invisible.

Non Fat (Oliver Manzi) and 6 Goats (Monika Dutta)

The two 2004 DepicT! winners here still for me sum up two ends of the moving-image spectrum.

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Jacqui Davies and Gary Thomas
Commissioners, AnimateTV

Please Say Something David O’Reilly; 10 mins

Wunderkind O’Reilly’s zeitgeisty winner of Golden Bear Best Short at the 2009 Berlinale, which also beat Nick Park to the Cartoon d’Or, about a troubled relationship between a Cat and Mouse set in the distant Future. It’s fantastic that such a strange, experimental film has got so much mainstream recognition.

It Felt Like a Kiss Adam Curtis

‘Multiplatform’ can mean the real world too. Curtis’ film featured in a collaboration with ‘immersive theatre’ group Punchdrunk Theatre for the Manchester International Festival.

Black Rain Semiconductor; 3 mins

Brighton based Semiconductor’s Magnetic Movie has been seen by well over a million across several online sites. For Black Rain, they took raw satellite date from NASA to construct an abstracted animation that evokes the awesome terror of the universe.

Phantoms of Nabua Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 11 mins

This is one of ours – co-commissioned as part of the Primitive project, which includes another short film, an installation, and a forthcoming feature. Phantoms of Nabua was made specifically for online, and fully exploits the intimacy that watching a film alone affords.

The Auteurs

Watching films online isn’t just about what’s good to see, it’s about where it’s good to see something. So our final choice is the seriously wonderful The Auteurs.

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Andrea Dittgen
Critic, Germany

Please Say Something David O’Reilly; 10 mins

The story of an adorable cat and a tedious mouse living together as a couple is full of strange and funny misunderstanding. It looks like a primitive computer experience at first site and ends up a self-reflexive love story between film, game and television. The Irish director creates new aesthetics in under ten minutes. He received the Golden Bear for best short at the 2009 Berlinale for this film, for good reason.

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The Ferroni Brigade aka Christoph Huber & Olaf Moller
Critics, Austria / Germany

Bancaja Bud Spencer Compromiso 10 Bancaja advert; 1 min

Quite different in its use of the iconic actor from Ermanno Olmi’s magnificent Cantando dietro i paravanti, but no less inspired.

Eşşekle (Esel Heinz) müsahibe – QHT qanunu haqqında şok açıqlamalar Adnan Hajizade; 5 mins

A triumph of donkey satire – that got its maker, Adnan Hacızadə, in jail X!X… There is also a clip online of Esel Heinz dancing!

Bonus track: When Ferronians chill after hours of ecstatic film veneration they like to listen to Musiikkivyöry. Cover says it all: “While mum and dad carried on with their household routines, I closed the door and pushed the ‘rec’ button.” First ever CD and limited edition MC reissue of Mika Taanila’s obscure 1980-1981 noise and lo-fi tape recordings.

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Lars Henrik Gass
Director, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival

Brooklyn Go Hard (Jay-Z feat. Santogold) Evan Roth; 4 mins

When I Grow Up (Fever Ray) Martin de Thurah; 4 mins

Cash in My Pocket (Wiley feat. Mark Ronson) Kim Gehrig; 4 mins

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Ryan Gilbey
New Statesman, UK

Touki Bouki Djibril Diop Mambéty; Senegal, 1973

I missed the restored print of this Senegalese oddity when it played at the 2008 London Film Festival, only catching up with it recently on theauteurs.com. Even when viewed on a laptop, with out-of-sync subtitles, it was revelatory. The framing and editing, and the hallucinatory use of music and colour, make you feel as though you’re seeing for the first time what cinema can do.

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Wendy Ide
The Times, UK

Combo Blu & David Ellis; 8 mins

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Adrian Martin
Critic, Australia

VideoSongs Pomplamoose Nataly Dawn & Jack Conte; 15 songs

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Sophie Mayer
Academic, UK

3 films from Primitive Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 29 mins

Too few gallery installations offer the opportunity to re-view the films, either online or on DVD. After the dreamlike experience under the watchtower and its red light in the FACT gallery, it was instructive to revisit the films online and retrace their subtle connections… and whet my appetite for the Uncle Boonmee feature due next year.

ArtFem.TV Feminist Art Project, University of Rutgers

Rare (and legitimate) opportunities to see work by well-known artists such as Pipilotti Rist and Valie Export, classic short films by Maya Deren, Germaine Dulac, and Martha Rosler – and work by brilliant contemporary NY filmmakers Abigail Child and Jennifer Reeves. Makes me long for Reeves’ girl noir The Time We Killed on DVD. (See more of Reeves’ work on her SparkyPix YouTube channel).

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Henry K. Miller
Academic, UK

It Felt Like a Kiss Adam Curtis; 35 mins

The online version of Adam Curtis’s walk-through installation project, which like most people I was unable to attend. It is unclear why this – and other fine things – has been confined to Curtis’s BBC blog. Consciously or not, it’s the ideal companion-piece to Mad Men.

I’m on a Boat (feat. T-Pain) The Lonely Island; 3 mins

A big year for Andy Samberg. This narrowly wins out over Like a Boss.

Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis from Between Two Ferns

Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis 3 mins x 7 episodes

An occasional series that continues to delight.

‘Outlaw’ commentary highlights 5 mins

“1976, Taxi Driver come out – got cunted.” Nick Love and Danny Dyer’s legendary tirade against the “fuckin’ broadsheet cunts” who slated their movie, released in 2007 but brought to attention on YouTube this year, is the funniest sketch Derek and Clive never made. “I’ve never seen no stars before.”

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Adam Pugh
Director, Aurora film festival

Point X Stuart Croft; 7 mins

Part of Claire Hope’s selection for Tank TV.

Mixtape Oliver Payne & Nick Relph; 19 mins

A Family Finds Entertainment Ryan Trecartin; 35 mins (in five parts)

Myth Labs Martha Colburn; 8 mins

The Last Tour Marine Hugonnier; 6 mins (excerpt from 14 mins)

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Tim Robey
Daily Telegraph, UK

The Cat Piano Eddie White and Ari Gibson; 5 mins

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Sukhdev Sandhu
Daily Telegraph, UK

Pastels / Tenniscoats, Vivid Youth Saya and Takashi Ueno; 5 mins

“Are we lost, are we lost, are we lost”: Gorgeous, blissed-out mesh of sound and image for this wondrous collaboration between Glaswegian pop heroes and Japanese geniuses Saya and Takashi Ueno.

I am Maru ‘Mugumogu’; 5 mins

Who needs film stars when there is Maru to seduce and delight us?

Crude Oil 7 mins

One of 2009’s great screening-events was ‘Light Industry’, Brooklyn’s 14-hour installation of Wang Bing’s monumental dispatch about oil extraction in north-west China. Extracts, plus some of the conversations about the film curated by co-organisers Triple Canopy, are here.

Air France, Spring 5 mins

Joy unconfined (with a sprig of eldritch memory): Air France have re-assembled, recontextualised and re-spooked The Wicker Man by using it as the visual base-rock for their remix of the classic Saint Etienne ode to happiness.

Chris Burden, A Twenty-Year Survey Peter Kirby 1989; 28 mins

He looks surprisingly tubby, a bit post-traumatic too, but footage of Chris Burden’s extraordinary self-crucifying/ drowning/ body-bagging outer-limits performances are very hard to access; this addition to Ubuweb’s on-going archive of obscure avant-gardisms is very valuable indeed.

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Jasper Sharp
Critic, UK

By no means a recent film, but one of my most valuable discoveries this year was the Europa Film Treasures website, an archive of long-forgotten oddities from the earliest days of European cinema, with the science fiction title The Airship Destroyer (Walter R. Booth, UK, 1909) one of my top picks from the collection.

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Anna Smith
Critic, UK

August 15th Xuan Jiang; 10 mins

I saw this amazing short at the Bird’s Eye View film festival. Director Xuan Jiang is one to watch.

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Kate Stables
Critic, UK

Ryan Chris Landreth; 14 mins

Chris Landreth’s 2005 Oscar-winning animation is a moving, and ceaselessly inventive CGI animated portrait of legendary ‘lost’ animator Ryan Larkin, combining raw emotion and polished psychedelia to great effect.

Lift Marc Isaacs; 25 mins

Turning the lift of a London tower block into an impromptu confessional, Marc Isaac’s wry, watchful and touching documentary builds a heart-warming portrait of ‘a vertical neighbourhood’.

This Way Up Adam Foulks & Adam Smith; 9 mins

British animators Adam Foulks and Adam Smith were Oscar nominated last year for this hilariously mordant and lugubriously ingenious slapstick comedy, in which a runaway coffin takes two diehard undertakers on the ride of their life.

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Brad Stevens
Critic, USA

Out 1 Jacques Rivette, 1971; 729 mins

Fans of Rivette – finally deciding to face the fact that that this 13-hour masterpiece will never become available, at least in English-subtitled form, through ‘official’ channels – have taken on the task of subtitling the film themselves. So a film obsessively focused on group projects and conspiracies can now be widely seen thanks to a group project which is also a conspiracy. The subtitled transfer is currently available for free download (in 8 parts) from the usual P2P suspects… at least until Peter Mandelson begins his crackdown! Rest assured, this is well worth having your internet connection suspended for.

Joyu Sumako no koi (The Love of Sumako) Mizoguchi Kenji, 1947; 95 mins

Among the rarest of Mizoguchi’s mature works, this gem has also attracted the attentions of those bilingual amateur subtitlers who make films available as ‘illegal’ filesharing downloads. The English-subtitled transfer can also be found on YouTube (in 10 parts).

Orson Welles rarities

A wealth of Wellesiana can be accessed on YouTube. Among the most notable examples are: the 1956 TV pilot The Fountain of Youth; the 1958 Portrait of Gina (1958, 19 mins), an ‘essay’ about Gina Lollobrigida which its subject has reportedly suppressed; Filming Othello, a 1979 documentary made for West German television; a sublime clip from Don Quixote (6 mins), which doesn’t appear in the film edited by Jess Franco (as Jim McBride pointed out to me, this scene recalls Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr); and some black and white footage from The Other Side of the Wind (7 mins), consisting of a conversation between Dennis Hopper, Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky.

Fear and Desire Stanley Kubrick, 1952; 72 mins

Paul Mazursky also appears in Stanley Kubrick’s long-unavailable first feature, which can be found on YouTube (in English, with Italian subtitles). Far from the commercial chore one might have expected, this turns out to be an abstract, almost surreal war film that anticipates many of its director’s later themes.

I Miss Sonja Henie various directors, 1972; 15 mins

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, along comes this 15-minute short with contributions from Dušan Makavejev, Milos Forman (whose sketch parodies Johnny Got His Gun), Paul Morrissey, Tinto Brass, Frederick Wiseman and others. The entire film was shot in one room, with the directors told that their segment must include the line “I miss Sonja Henie”.

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Amy Taubin
Critic, USA

I try to discipline myself not to go online (I’d still rather procrastinate from writing with books) but I regularly check out William Gibson’s blog which has amazing links to just about every kind of art and non-art, as well as, for the past 12 months, short excerpts from his novel in progress, the third in the series that began with Pattern Recognition, certainly one of the best fictions of the decade. The blog is on hiatus while Gibson finishes the novel, but the archive is available and not only is it fabulously interesting, it cheers me immensely to dig into it.

crazy water cat Kim Tasky; 3 mins

On YouTube this is credited to MacFOH, but I’m not sure if he or she is the video-maker or the discoverer of one of the great sound/image pieces of the year if not the decade. Don’t waste your time with lesser videos of the cat-drinking-from-faucet genre; this one is the equal of any of Michael Snow’s sound/image works and as sublime in its polyrhythms (not to mention the inspired playing of the cat) as Chris Marker’s Cat Listening to Music, a DVD extra on the Icarus edition of Marker’s The Case of the Grinning Cat.

But of course, the on-line event of the year was the courageous and ingenious reporting of the Iranian uprising by participants using cellphones and Twitter to get the word and the images out to the world. Praise them!

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Kate Taylor
Director, Abandon Normal Devices festival and Co-Director, London Short Film Festival

Phantoms of Nabua Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 11 mins

This year it was a delight to see Apichatpong’s cinematic vision effectively translated to gallery installations and the small screen of the internet – for which this short was made.

Versions Oliver Laric; 7 mins (INCLUDES EXPLICIT CONTENT)

Artist Laric’s net art video offers a witty take on the nature of digital copies, spanning military propaganda, film piracy and celebrity pornography. Walter Benjamin would dig it.

Peter and Ben Pinny Grylls; 11 mins

Winner of Shooting People’s 2009 online documentary competition ‘Encounters with Herzog’, judged by Werner himself. A poignant and uplifting tale of one man and his sheep.

Green Porno Season 3 Isabella Rossellini and Jody Shapiro; 4 episodes, 21 mins total

Sharp, knowing, saucy. Stopped me eating prawns.

Unfolding The Aryan Papers Jane and Louise Wilson; 18 mins

An odd and elegant glimpse into an unmade Stanley Kubrick film, mixing original archive test material with newly shot footage of the films’ would-be star Johanna ter Steege.

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Shane Walter
Director, onedotzero

Zombie Zombie – Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free Simon Gesrel and Xavier Ehretsmann; 5 mins

A stop-motion tribute to John Carpenter’s The Thing as performed by those most talented thespians, G.I. Joe! The whole thing is a non-official music video for French electronica duo Zombie Zombie (Etienne Jaumet and Cosmic Neman), whose music perfectly captures the feel of John Carpenters’ synth genius. (The name of the tune is ‘Driving’.) Face-rockingly awesome.

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Armond White
New York Press, USA, and author of Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles

Bob Fosse Michael Jackson Pas de Deux Candy Gourlay; 2 mins

A YouTube clip that intercuts Fosse’s little-known solo dance from The Little Prince with Jackson’s famous moonwalk performance of ‘Billie Jean’. This perfect synchronization links Fosse’s representation of Hollywood’s glorious movie musical tradition to a pop music titan who was also a great student of cinema (Jackson paid conscious homage to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly). It’s tremendously moving because Hollywood shunned Michael Jackson during the peak of his pop career yet Jackson, astonishingly, took inspiration from and revived the movie musical aesthetic in his own music video innovations – all of them actually shot on film, not video.

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» Read the overview

Last Updated: 13 Dec 2010