Small Screens: Several Very Short Movie Reviews

What I've been watching.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Actually pretty fun, once you get past the narcissism and abuse of women.EDIT: I should say that the latter two elements aren't things I wish they'd left out of the movie. They add texture to what could have been a plasticky, "drugs R fun!", self-consciously edgy cliche. F&LILV manages to be neither a cautionary tale nor an ad for addiction.Whiplash: Miles Teller is a super actor. This is not the movie to see him in. It's a … [Read more...]

“Bury My Art at Wounded Knee”: I’m in The American Interest

just a touch late for Columbus Day: Few art forms are as self-consciously nostalgic as the platinum photograph. The Instagram filter of its day, platinum printing was used at the end of the 19th century to convey a stylized, distant past. The velvety blacks and glowing whites could make an image’s textures feel soft and enclosed, liquid, no longer entirely real.Some of the most famous images of American Indians were made using this process. If you picture a stern or mournful Native American … [Read more...]

“Radio Is a Sound Salvation”: I watch “God Help the Girl”

for AmCon: On the very top level–the frosting of the cupcake, if you will–”God Help the Girl” is a musical about a Manic-Depressive Pixie Dream Girl and her nebbishy love interest. It was written and directed by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, and it is so twee it twinkles, almost two hours of Emily Browning’s giant eyes and sugared voice and insistent suffering, and there were times when I hated it.But beneath that thick super-sweet frosting, this is a subtle film about the stories we … [Read more...]

A Mundane Masquerade: Peter de Vries, “The Tents of Wickedness”

This is a little 1949 satire--dedicated "To James and Helen Thurber," if you want to place it in its social world--about a respectable family man in Decency, Conn., trying to figure out which genre of novel he lives in. He plunges strenuously from Faulkner to Greene all the way to Joyce, and the authorial voice shifts with him. At the same time Charles Swallow, our protagonist, is also trying to figure out whether he's a newspaperman, an advice columnist, or a psychiatrist. And he's trying to … [Read more...]

Time Is Like a Dream/And Now–For a Time–You Are Mine: A Few More Thoughts on “Boyhood”

So when I wrote my review of Boyhood I knew it had gotten good press, but I didn't realize that I would be one of only a handful of critics who found the movie lacking. Apparently it sits around 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now that I've had some time to sit with the movie in my memory, here are some further thoughts: some extra praise and some extra criticism, but mostly a reflection on perseverance.The other critics who disliked Boyhood tend to argue that the "film these people over 12 real … [Read more...]

I Write About the Rise of Cracked.com as an Actual Journalism Behemoth Thing

for AmSpec: Gallows humor is one of the most traditional and least savory elements of esprit de corps. For cops, doctors, soldiers, social workers—anybody whose job site is the miserable human heart—gallows humor puts the “against the world” into us-against-the-world. In a Venn diagram of “jokes cops post in online forums” and “civil rights violations,” a lot of material would fall in the overlap area. Emergency-room abbreviations like CTD (Circling the Drain) or FDGB (Fall Down Go Boom) cauteri … [Read more...]

From “Graham Greene on Film: Collected Film Criticism, 1935-1939″

During the conferences [with David Selznick] which followed I remember there were times when there seemed to be a kind of grim reason in Mr Selznick's criticisms--surely here perhaps there was a fault in "continuity," I hadn't properly "established" this or that. I would forget momentarily the lesson which I had learned as a film critic--that to "establish" something is almost invariably wrong and that "continuity" is often the enemy of life. Man, that is great advice, especially the bit about … [Read more...]


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