Watching a film for a second time, years after an initial viewing, can be a reminder—harsh or soothing—of how far we’ve come. This is clearly true of films seen for the first time in our adult years since childhood, after we’ve fine-tuned our critical faculties, and maybe fallen in love, maybe had sex, maybe seen a bit more of the world. But in some instances, even shorter time spans between viewings can make us acutely aware of ourselves, and of … Read More
The transition to sound cinema marks the moment when Hollywood filmmaking would become more like a true industry, with less of an artisanal feel. The new technology necessitated that the studios would have to collaborate with the music and radio industries, and become more competitive in their distribution practices to attract a wide enough viewership to stay afloat. These multiple-language reflect an era-defining method of churning out the most product for the most markets rather then the highest quality single … Read More
Many films, especially those worthy of our inspection and introspection, need space and time to gestate within us. So for this column, I’ve decided to discuss—not rank—three films that will likely not make my personal top ten for 2013. These are films that, though I found them in many ways to be unsuccessful, were also too difficult, strange, and layered to be completely and properly evaluated after a single viewing.
It’s delightful that This Is Spinal Tap, surely the greatest film ever made about a fake rock band, was released just one month before the premiere of Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, the greatest concert movie ever made. While the former is savagely sarcastic, the latter is reverent toward its central performer, David Byrne, yet together they represent the pinnacle of eighties music films.
The year 1927 is commonly viewed as a beginning rather than as an end; discussion of it revolved around what was gained rather than lost. Yet silent cinema, a singular art form that’s in many ways aesthetically incomparable to sound film, was at its peak in the mid to late twenties. The talkies brought new technical possibilities but also imposed limitations, and their popularity cut short the kinds of experimentations that were proliferating, and that were perhaps on the verge … Read More
Often one can find more quality on the list of Oscar also-rans than in the actual winners or nominees. In the conversation early on in 2010 was Lesley Manville, who seemed to have finally found her breakout in Mike Leigh’s Another Year. What likely made her performance hard to embrace by Oscar voters also reflects the ambiguities that make the role so fascinating to behold: does Leigh embrace or mock this most abrasive of characters, and subsequently are we supposed … Read More
The tepidness of horror in 1994 seems especially unfortunate, or at least glaring, because this was otherwise such a noteworthy year for movies, with the vivacious, jarring Pulp Fiction lending the cinema a sense of true regeneration. Instead, the studios released such refined bloodletters as Neil Jordan’s high-profile adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Mike Nichols’s uptown lupine saga Wolf.
One some level, no matter how much is shown or not shown, horror films are about revulsion. There’s a literal something at the center of these films—a monster, ghost, or maniac we don’t want to look at. But there’s one horror movie that I can think of—and I think of it a lot—that seems to break all of these rules: The Seventh Victim, which provides the barest of surface scares but plumbs the profoundest fear.
It’s a testament to how far violence has come in American cinema that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can be viewed as palatable at all. Yet as mindlessly brutal as the genre has become, few horror films since have been able to equal its impact, and I think the only honest and direct way to talk about Tom Hooper’s wrenching film is to acknowledge its shocking horrors. It is a film that stands utterly alone.