Author's posts

Resistance

Everybody hates mimes, we have been led to believe. But this is not true, or at least, not quite true. In the training of actors, mime is an important learned skill. And I am told that every young actor, after a period of thorough training, will long carry with them a secret yearning to be …

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Blow the Man Down

“If you ain’t into fishing, you’re in the wrong place.” So sings the burly, bearded, sort-of Greek chorus of this coastal small town shaggy dog tale of homicide and how not to cover it up. Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) are young adult sisters whose mom, who ran what looks like a …

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Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

For years after the breakup of The Band—the real sundering of musical and personal bonds, occurring some time after the farewell celebration depicted in Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Last Waltz”—its multi-instrumentalist (but mostly drummer) and singer Levon Helm would complain to anyone who would listen (or so it seemed) about what a snake his bandmate …

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I Wish I Knew

Even if you are an enthusiastic follower of the work of Chinese director Jia Zhangke, you may want to bone up on some Chinese history before seeing “I Wish I Knew,” a documentary he made in 2010 which is only now being released here. The director is known for deliberate, pointed examinations of life in …

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Disturbing the Peace

“Mama take these guns away from me; I can’t shoot them any more.” That was Bob Dylan in 1973, breathing newish life into an origin-untraceable piece of Americana Mythos, that of the marshal who hangs up his firearms for whatever reason. In “Disturbing the Peace,” we see, in desaturated color—so we know it’s a flashback—why …

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The Song of Names

It’s 1951, and a major musical event is about to enliven London’s classical scene. The evening depicted in this movie’s opening will feature a young violin virtuoso, Dovidl Rapaport, playing a program of Bruch and Bach. Dovidl’s friend Martin, a fellow in his early twenties like the absent violinist, tries to reassure the older folks …

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Richard Jewell

In his landmark 1968 study of the American director Howard Hawks, the critic Robin Wood identified a key theme in Hawks’ work: “the lure of irresponsibility.” As a filmmaker Clint Eastwood is possibly more a William Wellman man than a Hawks one, but some of his pictures, most explicitly 1993’s “A Perfect World,” partake of …

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21 Bridges

“21 Bridges” begins with the funeral of a cop, a uniformed officer who took out three of the men who shot at him before falling. That cop’s young son is there, and he’ll grow up to be the police detective André Davis, played by Chadwick Boseman, on whose shoulders this movie’s narrative will roll. The …

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Ford v Ferrari

This racing picture is a period piece, set in the early 1960s, and there’s also something retro about the kind of movie storytelling it represents. Directed by James Mangold and given spectacular horsepower by dual male leads Christian Bale and Matt Damon, “Ford v Ferrari” recounts, in a sometimes exhilaratingly streamlined fashion, a tale of …

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Crown Vic

There’s a Stiff Records single from 1977 by the late Larry Wallis called “Police Car”; the first verse goes “I’m armed, and dangerous/I prowl the streets at night … If you see a creep/In your rear-view mirror/It’s a hungry black and white/’Cos I’m a police car.” This movie written and directed by Joel Souza could …

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The Best Films of the 2010s: The Master

This feature is a part of a series on the best films of the 2010s, resulting from our ranked top 25, which you can read here. This is #10.  It is odd to be asked to write about “The Master” in 2019. Primarily because the movie features one of the actor Joaquin Phoenix’s most searing, …

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American Son

The opening title of “American Son” deems it a “Netflix Television Event” rather than a movie. Replicating the cast of the Broadway production of the play of the same name, written by Christopher Demos-Brown, the action is set in the lobby of a Miami police station on a night when it’s raining cats and dogs. …

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Synonyms

This French/Israeli co-production stars Tom Mercier, who here makes his film debut. The young man cuts a startling figure. A performer seemingly without a lot of inhibition, he gives his character Yoav a swagger no matter what his condition. Naked and cold, or dressed in a ridiculously colored topcoat, droopy-eyed and with a mouth that’s …

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Promare

Just to clear things up right away, it’s pronounced “pro” “mare,” as if you are in favor of a female horse. Not “pro-mar-ay,” as in rhymes with “Volare,” which is fun to sing. As for the meaning of the word, it’s not explained until almost an hour into this frenetic Japanese animated movie, the first …

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The Sound of Silence

In this ambitious, tonally intriguing comedic drama, Peter Saarsgard plays a self-described “room tuner.” He provides a useful service to troubled New Yorkers who can’t quite put their fingers on what’s costing them sleep and/or a general sense of ease. He examines their dwelling spaces, armed with tuning forks and an array of vintage-looking audio …

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Venice 2019: The King, About Endlessness, Babyteeth

Due to a heretofore unprecedented concatenation of scheduling quirks, I ended up seeing way fewer new films at this year’s Venice Biennale than I found satisfactory. I promise it won’t happen again. I’ve already weighed in during a previous dispatch and in a stand-alone review (and I wish to thank all the kind social media souls …

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Venice 2019: Restored Classics

One potential pitfall for a festival that places a special stress on film restoration is the likelihood of screening an old title that leaves the contemporary choices in the dust. It could not be helped, obviously, in 2017, when the Biennale hosted a restored version of Kenji Mizoguchi’s heart-shattering “Sansho the Bailiff,” which is on every …

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Venice 2019: The Biennale College

Part of my function at the Venice Film Festival is to help the Biennale College put a critical stamp on its yearly mission. This program, after an intensive submission and workshopping process, yields three new feature films once every ten months; each one is funded to the tune of 150,000 Euros.  At this year’s panel, …

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Joker

In mainstream movies today, “dark” is just another flavor. Like “edgy,” it’s an option you use depending on what market you want to reach. And it is particularly useful when injected into the comic book genre.    Darkness no longer has much to do with feelings of alienation the filmmaker wants to express or purge, …

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Venice 2019: Roman Polanski’s J’Accuse

For a minute this morning, I was worried that I would be the first person on the Priority Press line for the new Roman Polanski movie. That wouldn’t look good, maybe. The competitive inclusion of “J’Accuse,” which is the title as it appears on the film itself (subtitles give the perhaps overly optimistic English-language title, …

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