On Peter Sellers in Being There
Being There is playing at BAMcinématek Sunday May 15th. Peter Sellers’s performance in Being There is one of the wonders of the movies. It is a wonder of personality, in its disparity to Sellers’s actual, miserable self; a wonder of skill, as a peerless feat of subatomic finesse; a wonder of cinematic history, in contrast to Sellers’ most iconic works of slapstick (which are no less nuanced...
On Robert Duvall in Get Low
Get Low is a misshapen, well meaning, squishy-hearted half-feature that’s both too short and way, way too long. But Robert Duvall is in it. Mr. Duvall is one of those actors that makes everyone around him look like they’re in a very good high school production of The Glass Menagerie, that is to say, ridiculous. A few scenes into the picture, it becomes clear that alongside Duvall even Sissy...
Life During Wartime
Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime is that rare thing, a sequel that actually outstrips its predecessor. I must say, I was rooting for it. I always thought Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse had been unfairly lumped into “The Films of the 90s,” an estimable category, but ultimately not fit for notable one-offs. Dollhouse was as singular as it was representative. Combining a sense of playful...
Within the first fifteen minutes, I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt I was sitting in a movie theater watching a movie – a romantic comedy, actually – about two mostly normal people of slightly-above-average intelligence, a man and a woman, who meet at a party thrown by a mutual friend. After a few glasses of wine, it comes out that both were only pretending not to know the other for fear of...
Is Albert Brooks a Genius?
I’ve been thinking about Albert Brooks since he told The New York Times he has a novel in the works – his first. Days later, I’m certain Albert Brooks is the most underrated Brooks in show business history. Richard Brooks is the most overrated. Mel and James L. have been given their kudos, but Albert, somehow, has been passed over. How to explain this? The law of averages, I think. Brooks...
Notes for a Blogpost on The Kids Are All Right
On a plane, hours delayed. Exhausted, but must write something about this heartening, misshapen movie. Moment to moment the love shone through, and in a picture about love, that’s what you want. Still, could have used a bit of smoothing out. Naturalism no excuse for lumpiness. Why so long here? So short there? Why so little of that character and so much of that one? Why inject three-act arcs...
I love Michael Douglas. I admit, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to come around to it. Back in the eighties/nineties, films like Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, The War of the Roses, Basic Instinct, Falling Down, and Disclosure – made almost in succession – made it almost impossible to remember the Michael Douglas of Romancing the Stoneand The Jewel of the Nile’s Douglas, a version of the actor...
The Silent Treatment
“The American silent cinema of the 1920s gave us three great comedians,” wroteDave Kehr in last week’s Times, “Harold Lloyd, whose hyperkinetic optimism seemed the perfect embodiment of his epoch; Charles Chaplin, whose Victorian sentimentality was just a touching bit behind it; and Buster Keaton, who was so far ahead of his time that we’re still running to catch up with him.” What is it...
Micmacs is the New Film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I remember the day I saw The City of Lost Children, the first of Jeunet’s films to really breakthrough into US art houses. I didn’t know it then, but I’m sure now it was one of those outbursts of total imagination, like Caligari and Metropolis and Brazil, films whose singularity is without precedent or successor. In trying to describe it, one inevitably sells it short, but if we’re going to...
Everybody is in love with Toy Story 3. I haven’t seen it yet. (Nor have I seenShrek 4, the Joan Rivers documentary.) People and critics alike are going wild. A.O. raved, New York Magazine ran a piece called “Just How Much Will Toy Story 3 Make You Cry?” and The Wrap asked (and answered) “Has Anyone Come Close to Pixar’s 11-Peat?“ The picture’s critical and commercial success is a...
Show Me the Way to Go Home
Jaws celebrates its 35th anniversary this week. There are all sorts of things worth remembering about Jaws; its fabulously rocky production history, its massive impact on the business of selling movies and the culture at large, and its composition, which is really about as good as it gets, a paragon of the “nothing is wasted” school of efficient storytelling. Take any sequence, go through...
Who Was the Real Holly Golightly?
People want to know. When Vladimir Nabokov published “Lolita,” readers assumed, wrongly, that he himself was Humbert Humbert, and that somewhere out there, a real Lolita -– or Lolitas -– was wandering around New England enchanting older nymphetophiles all the way to their graves or beds, whatever came first. Years earlier, when Thomas Mann published “Death in Venice,” people wondered at who...
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Well, I saw it. For a long time it was hard to care about the latest Woody Allen movie because the latest Woody Allen movie was so bad. That was ten years ago. Now it’s even harder to care about the latest Woody Allen movie because, more than ever, it seems Woody himself doesn’t care. His 21st century life philosophy, the idea that nothing really matters in our world of arbitrary cause and...
The very moment I was invited to see the new Woody Allen movie tonight, I felt that feeling one invariably feels meeting an old lover for a short drink. Really, it’s a feeling I’ve felt before seeing every Woody Allen movie since Small Time Crooks in 2000, a full decade ago. You know what I’m talking about. Me: Hi! Wow! Her: Hi. Me: How are you? You look – Her: Fine. I’m doing…I’m…[trails...
“Everybody these days is talking about transmedia,” said video game agent Keith Boesky in a recent New York Times article. “Transmedia”! Finally my enemy has a name. I remember the afternoon I first had a sense of what was to come. It was in film school. One day, from out of nowhere, it was decided that we of USC’s Film Production department were required to take a video game class. The moment I...
Bigger Than Life
This weekend I had the good fortune to break in the new Criterion Blu-ray of Bigger Than Life with L.A.’s foremost family of cinema, The Goldblatts. There is so much to discuss about Bigger Than Life that one feels the only way to say it is with a PowerPoint presentation, or at the very least, three or four dioramas, a copy of David Halberstam’s The Fifites, a brief overview of German...
Riding the Wave
Emmanuel Laurent’s new documentary, “Two in the Wave,” about Godard, Truffaut, and everyone’s favorite Vague, opens this week. A.O. Scott wrote something characteristically bland here. Forgive me, but I have to sin. When Godard and Truffaut behave as themselves, their films tend to slip into excess; Godard goes into solipsistic maximalism, and Truffaut into a kind of flabby melancholy. I...
Thinking about Mike Figgis
The work of director Mike Figgis has always been of particular interest to me. From more traditional films, like his adaptation of The Browning Version, through his looser, more playful experiments in video technology (i.e. Timecodeand Hotel), Figgis never seems to have touched the same ground twice. But his films are his throughout. I could point to any number of patterns. My personal...
What Does Cannes Do?
In the spring, a young cineaste’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Cannes. Or, in the case of certain cineastes, not so lightly. Does it matter? Does Cannes really do anything anymore, or has it become an airless pageant, one long, beachside photo-op with a few screenings thrown in for old time sake? No: Cannes does matter. As opposed to Sundance, a festival which seems to get more and...