I am thrilled to share my latest piece, up now at Vague Visages:
I wrote a piece for Film Inquiry about actors as auteurs,
And duh, Isabelle Huppert is one of them.
Please go check out the site and consider subscribing. It’s an awesome resource for cinephiles who are interested in more than just basic reviews. Plus, check out the Resources section for a deep dive on specific directors, theories, genres, and more.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of the work they do!
Happy 2017! It’s been a while. I just wanted to let you all know I’m still around and still writing and thinking about visual media.
We just finished up Screen Week at TMT, where we shared our top television shows and movies from 2016. Both lists are well worth checking out, and I contributed blurbs to both:
Thanks for bearing with me. I have other projects in the works, and I’ll keep you posted. Until next time!
Dogs have appeared on the silver screen since the dawning days of cinema, when their tails wagged silently but joyfully in front of audiences, making viewers laugh, cry, and clap with delight. Dogs are our closest animal companions, and many hours of footage have been devoted to them – on smartphones, movie cameras and everything in between. Nearly as long as humans have walked upright, dogs have padded alongside, too often paying a steep price for this proximity through abuse and neglect. These animals arouse our empathy, but they are subjected to our exploitative nature all the same, a reminder that humans are just animals, fighting to live, sometimes at any cost. Dogs are fodder for rich, emotional stories, but these tend to be aimed at children rather than adults. However, there is the rare film that examines the relationships between dogs and people with an eye to more universal themes. The results range from heartfelt to horrific but are always provocative.
I recently joined my super smart and sweet friend Jim Laczkowski on his excellent Director’s Club podcast for a conversation about Alfred Hitchcock. You can listen to it here, on iTunes, through the Podcasts app on iPhone, or whatever other way people access podcasts these days.
We covered a lot of ground during our conversation, including The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. If we skipped over your favorite, never fear, there will be a follow-up episode.
Jim has graciously invited me back, so stay tuned for more of my voice coming at you through your various devices and, of course, more movie chatter.
It’s been quiet over here, but that’s because I’ve been busy at work on other projects, like this one!
My first article for Bitch Flicks is up. Please check it out!
Throughout his career, Olivier Assayas has invoked conversations about art and its relationship to life, whether that means art’s association with love, commerce, or even revolution. Sometimes art is the main source of conversation, sometimes it’s just a thread, but it’s always there. In Summer Hours, a designer comes to terms with creating artifacts for money rather than good taste; In Irma Vep, an aging director struggles to take on the problem of adapting the classic film serial Les Vampires in late 20th century France; In Late August, Early September, a writer determines whether he should take a job that pays a living wage or do the work he really believes in.
In Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (a Zellner Bros. production), a girl goes in search of a better life. Her pilgrimage takes her to from Tokyo to Fargo, North Dakota—hardly the type of place one would expect to be transformative. However, in the world of movies, the city of Fargo holds a special place. American movie buffs know this Midwestern snowscape as the setting for the darkly comedic 1994 Coen Brothers film, Fargo. It’s this movie that sets Zellner’s movie and Kumiko’s story in motion. Kumiko takes it for granted that one of the standout sequences in Fargo is real, or at least, a facsimile of a real event—the moment when Steve Buschemi’s character buries a suitcase filled with cash in a corner of North Dakota that is both desolate and unremarkable at the same time. Kumiko witnesses this action on a battered VHS tape, as a bloodied Buschemi is rippled by static. She becomes dead set on recovering the suitcase. Perhaps her confusion results from the way Fargo purposely conflates reality and fiction, or the manner in which she discovers the VHS itself, secreted away in a cave by the shore. In the end, it’s the voyage itself, not the reason, that matters. Read the rest of this entry »
For the most part we all grow up with this idea that the person you are is separate from the sack of skin and bones you lug it around in. The self is an untouchable essence locked up inside the body somewhere. In a way, the face is just an afterthought. It’s the way your self communicates with the world. But when you think about it, human life is centered around the face. It’s the one thing on the body that doesn’t really change over time. Sure, you get some wrinkles, but the essential components stay in place for your whole life – eyes, nose, mouth, and their relationships to one another. They don’t change. Despite how similarly human faces are formed, they belong to specific people. When the face of someone deceased appears in a dream, it haunts you through the day. Often, you recognize a face in the street, even without remembering how you know the person it belongs to. It’s haunting just how solidly specific faces become branded in our memories.
In the central moment of Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure (2014), a family vacationing in the Alps witnesses an avalanche. The parents’ very different responses to the near disaster push their relationship to its breaking point. Ostlund’s film is about evolving gender roles and their impact on marriage. The movie brings up a very common struggle: Humanity versus nature—a theme you see frequently in the movies. In this context, nature isn’t just external, but what lies inside. What makes people behave the way they do? To bring out these themes, Ostlund contrasts sweeping vistas with the human mechanisms populating the ski resort. Noisy machines climb up the mountain to prepare it for skiers; these are paralleled with other human mechanisms, like the mechanical toothbrushes the family uses to brush their teeth. But Ostlund also uses photography and digital video to bring out the question of self-presentation and reality.