Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Link Round-Up: Year End

Some final posts and catch up before 2014 takes over, which will have much more exciting information in the future...

Firstly: Above is a copy of my piece that appeared in the 50th issue of Little White Lies. Each writer was given a random year and chosen to write about one shot from that year. I went with the final shot of Abbas Kiarostami's Through the Olive Trees. You can find LWL at some major bookstore retailers or subscribe to the magazine here

I also contributed to LWL's "Perfect Day 2013," in which I programmed a perfect day of film watching based on four 2013 films and one 2013 repertory release. Read that here.

For In Review Online, I wrote about Asghar Farhadi's new film, The Past, which is his quite striking and beautiful follow up to A Separation. I also burbled Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess for the site's Top 20 films of 2013.

Speaking of 2013 lists, my own will be part of an upcoming two part Cinephiliacs show with Keith Uhlich. If you cannot wait, you can see a preliminary list of some of my favorite films, performances, and undistributed films at Indiewire among other categories.

You can also pick up the latest episodes of The Cinephiliacs, which have included Imogen Sara Smith on In A Lonely Place, Nellie Killian on Five Year Diary, and Genevieve Yue on Cafe Lumiere. Lots of goodies in those discussions.

Upcoming on Masters of Cinema are booklets for William Wellman's Wings and Sidney Lumet's Serpico. You can currently pre-order both, but look for more information here on what goodies can be expected.

On Letterboxd: Lots of goodies (and a few baddies) have gotten words from me...

For 2013: American Hustle, Oldboy, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, I Used to Be Darker, It's a Disaster, and Gold.

Howard Hawks: His Girl Friday, The Dawn Patrol, Air Force, and A Song Is Born.

Canonical Films: Providence, Manila in the Claw of Light, Arabian Nights, L'Intrus, News From Home.
And some esoterica: Smile, Freedom, Rapado, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Monday, December 30, 2013

December Screening Log

Color coded via Dan Sallitt's method (Current or upcoming releases not included). Click on the titles to writing when applicable.

1.  The Chase (Penn, USA, 1966).
2.  The Women (Cukor, USA, 1939)
3.  Five Year Diary (Robertson, USA, 1982-1997)
4.  The Hanging Tree (Daves, USA, 1958)
5.  The Marrying Kind (Cukor, USA, 1959)

Also Notable (No order besides color categorization): Sparrow (To, Hong Kong, 2008), The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, USA, 1940), Cafe Lumiere (Hou, Taiwan/Japan, 2003), Sylvia Scarlett (Cukor, USA, 1935), Mauvias Sang (Carax, France, 1986), Lady of Burlesque (Wellman, USA, 1943), Born Yesterday (Cukor, USA, 1950), Running on Karma (To, Hong Kong, 2003), Spencer's Mountain (Daves, USA, 1963), Trances (Maanouni, Morocco, 1981), Youngblood Hawke (Daves, USA, 1964), Redes (Muriel/Zinnenmann, Mexico, 1936) 

Rewatches: Stalker (Tarkovsky, USSR, 1979), Touki Bouki (Mambety, Senegal, 1973)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unique Film Writing in 2013

“95% of film writing is shit.” This is what a fellow critic reminded of me during one of my podcasts this year. The more I thought about it, I knew he was right.

But there was good film writing this year, if from a small selection of people. Most of what passes for serious film criticism is hardly serious, more than it seems what passes for good films. So this is a small selection of writing I liked this year. It’s not everything, but when I opened a Word document and remembered what pieces stayed in my mind for whatever reason, these were the ones that popped immediately into my head. There are a number of writers whom I adore not on the list simply because my mind is flawed, and there are some writers I thought of more than one piece, but I thought one should do—my friend Carson Lund has more. There is no order, but the first two are my favorites.

Kent Jones, "Intolerance," Film Comment, May 3, 2013. (Or: We cannot remain outside the sphere of our art)

It’s curious that American culture and history are still so commonly viewed through a New Left prism, by means of which 1964 or thereabouts has become a Year Zero of political enlightenment; as a consequence, the preferred stance remains that of the outsider looking in, or in this case back, at a supposedly gullible and delusional pre-Sixties America. It’s certainly preferable to right-wing orthodoxy, but that’s hardly a compliment. The New Left is now very old but its rhetoric lives on, many times removed from its original context, and that rhetoric seems to have found a welcome home in film criticism.

David Bordwell, "Mixing business with pleasure: Johnnie To’s DRUG WAR," Observations on Film Art, July 8, 2013 (Or: How a movie tells you everything you need to know)

The Milkyway writing team often treats story points in this peremptory way. If the Hollywood rule is “Tell the audience every major point three times,” To and Wai often assume that one mention is enough, and even that can come before we’re in a position to appreciate it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


I wrote 3,300 words on Yasujiro Ozu and Tokyo Story's canonization. I would like you to read them. There is no dedication in the piece, but it would surely go to David Bordwell.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

System Malfunction: Spike Jonze's Her

Many thanks to my friend and fellow cinephile-in-arms Carson Lund for helping me edit this piece.

Her is so obsessed with trying to tell a story about “how we live now” that any of its profound ideas seem quite self-evident. By playing the romance between Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix, introverted to the point of limitation[i]) and his new operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson[ii]), as a serious relationship, Jonze certainly asks us to explore radical territory by thinking about our new(-ish) relationship to technology. However, it becomes quite apparent that despite this bold premise, it’s more of a sleek surface to create an allegory of loneliness. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with such a choice, except Jonze emphasizes his narrative through utter banality, a conventional romance about letting go of the past. Despite the uniqueness of the central relationship, Jonze is complacent in simply following through the various conventions of meet cute scenes, vulnerable people talking about their vulnerability, and various day trips that play to broad gestures of emotions. These sequences rely on montages that could come out of his 90s music videos—pleasantly shot in mutedly light colors for pleasant compositions, but rarely perceptive ones—pandering to a little more than a cinematic equivalent of BuzzFeed. It’s an emotional simulacrum without depth.