The Lost Year

Welcome to The New York Film Critics Circle’s new website. To inaugurate your interest into the Circle’s activities and history, let’s take a look back at one of our signal events:

In 2009, to celebrate the New York Film Critics Circle‘s 75th anniversary, a retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was held to bring back 1962–the only year the NYFCC did not present awards due to a newspaper strike. 1962 was equal to Hollywood’s fabled 1939. The BAM series provided a great opportunity to considered what the Circle members had to experience on the screen that lost year plus a chance to learn and revise film history.

To get people reacquainted with movie history is part of a critic’s mission–especially for a year that is traditionally overlooked. 1962 saw the U.S. release of a great number of masterpieces. They all went unrecognized because the Circle didn’t present any awards. Looking back, that wasn’t necessarily the wisest or necessary move. But now we’ve got this blank spot in the Circle’s history and the public’s memory that is interesting to fill.

It’s common to talk about 1939 as a peak year for Hollywood but that conditions people to only think about movies in Hollywood terms. 1962 was special because it was an extraordinary year for international art films as well as then-independent film and Hollywood. It went from Jules and Jim and Lawrence of Arabia to Eli Landau’s independently produced Sidney Lumet film of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night all the way to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Manchurian Candidate and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Hatari.

When I contributed to Sight and Sound magazine’s ten-year critics’ poll of all-time best films, I realized that three of my favorites came from 1962 (Jules and Jim, Lawrence and Jacques Demy’s Lola). Doing scholarly research and nerdy research, I made a list all of all the good films I knew that belonged to that year and was amazed to discover a cascade of riches.

BAM’s usual programming offers inventive selections from all of film history. Our series on 1962 helped to spread the word about the Circle to the outer boroughs–it justified Brooklyn’s claim on being savvy. And BAM curator Jake Perlin shares credit; his enthusiasm and film knowledge have helped make New York moviegoing worthwhile for dedicated fans and casual moviegoers. It’d be wonderful if programmers across the country recognized this 1962 treasure trove and followed BAM’s lead.

I fear our film cultural heritage is always in danger of being overlooked by the pressure to respond to new marketing and powerful, expensive hype. Not just Hollywood hype but the hype that also comes from the festival circuit. The films in this 1962 series have passed the test of time. Right now is always the right time to introduce people to great movies.

As a critics Circle we are always the first responders to new movies, but we also have a responsibility to film history–and to the Circle’s own history. We point out what matters in film culture. We are not gatekeepers. We are keepers of the flame.

–Armond White, NYFCC Chairman 2009–2010