Those lists of twenty-five best films of the twenty-first century (so far) keep coming, and J. Hoberman’s now posted his, too. He’s customized the rules somewhat, and we can be glad: “My single ‘best’ film-object”—Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010)—“is followed by a list of eleven filmmakers and one academic production company (in order of ‘best-ness’) responsible for two or more ‘best films,’ these followed by another eight individual movies (again in order) and finally four more tentatively advanced films (these alphabetical).”
Jonathan Rosenbaum has “decided to play as well. My only rule in this game, not followed by Hoberman, was to restrict my favorite filmmakers on the list to only one film each—not always easy, and sometimes downright agonizing.” The Clock makes his list as well.
“I miss the experience of communal and theatrical filmgoing, mostly as a child in my family’s theaters in Alabama during the late 1940s and the 1950s,” Rosenbaum tells Federico Casal in an interview for Revista Film. “Part of that experience was quite clearly the experience of being part of a community, which is much harder to find and to feel these days in the United States—except, perhaps, on the Internet, where it’s a radically different notion of community, both physically and metaphysically.”
Harper’s has made its current cover story available, an outstanding essay by Zadie Smith on, among other things, this year’s breakout hit Get Out and Dana Schutz’s controversial painting Open Casket. We’ll focus on the movie: “There are those who think of Frostian woods as the pastoral, as America the Beautiful, and others who see summer in the city as, likewise, beautiful and American. One of the marvelous tricks of Jordan Peele’s debut feature, Get Out, is to reverse these constituencies, revealing two separate planets of American fear—separate but not equal. One side can claim a long, distinguished cinematic history: Why should I fear the black man in the city? The second, though not entirely unknown (Deliverance, The Wicker Man), is certainly more obscure: Why should I fear the white man in the woods?” And further in: “It is a film that contains its own commentary.”
“So cinema is dying again,” writes Mark Cousins at IndieWire. “The streaming incomes of Amazon and Netflix will overtake theatrical box office in the next few years, we’re told. As they were in the 1950s and 1980s, movies are on their last legs. But just as TV and VHS gave a new life to movies, and brought them to new audiences, maybe with streaming will follow suit. This week, my own documentary A Story of Children and Film will premiere on the streaming service FilmStruck, along with my selection of some amazing movies about kids from around the world that very few Americans have previously had the chance to see. So once again, what seems like the latest death knell for cinema is perhaps just another stage in its path to adulthood.”
David Bordwell would like to draw “your attention to a minor release that exemplifies some of the trends I try to track in Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling. The film is no great classic, but it’s better than most of the stuff pumped into our ‘plexes, and it can teach us a lot about continuity and change in the studio years.” It’s Irving Reis’s One Crowded Night (1940), which TCM will be showing tomorrow morning.
“A striking thing about Jacques Becker, one of the last great classicists in French cinema, is the range of genres with which he was apparently at total ease,” writes Christopher Small. “Astonishingly, the great critic and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier recently said that Becker was maybe greater than Howard Hawks in this respect—a startling admission given that Hawks is an even more sacrosanct name for cinephiles of Tavernier’s age and predilection than his more obscure French contemporary.” Small focuses on three films: Falbalas (1945), Touchez pas au grisbi (1954), and Le trou (1960).
Here’s a new site to keep an eye on, Women in Revolt, maintained by Lindsay Pugh: “While they may not get top directing jobs, there have always been female directors out there making bomb ass films on a regular basis. I started this blog because I love to watch and write about film. Some of my favorite films are directed by women and hardly anyone I talk to knows about them because they're not taught in film school and they weren't written about enough when they premiered. I'd like to change that.” The latest entry, by the way, is on Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970).
“As happy as I am to see a woman director behind a major action film, come on, Wonder Woman!” exclaims Josephine Decker at the Talkhouse Film. “A warrior genius with a child’s brain in a sex goddess body? Can’t we just have one complex female character leading an action movie?” Deborah Kampmeier agrees that it’s a “total male fantasy.” But Drew Denny “actually loved the movie!” Conversation ensues.
Ali Elkin’s piece for McSweeney’s, “An Oral History of Quentin Tarantino As Told to Me by Men I’ve Dated,” is indeed as funny as you’d expect.
“Michael Bay is some kind of genius—though his ingenuity is smothered in such a stew of convention, a slog of narrative, and a slurry of bad taste that it’s almost undetectable,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Transformers: The Last Knight, opening today, “feels at times like the longest night—it runs two and a half hours and encompasses a span of plot that ranges from the medieval battlefields to the primordial realms of Pangaea to the cosmic reaches of outer space. Yet, at its intermittent and fleeting best, Transformers: The Last Knight offers more to see and more to startle than do many films by auteurs of overt artistic ambition and accomplishment.”
Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) “isn’t about water,” writes Jonny Coleman in the LA Weekly. “Chinatown is about fucking Chinatown and L.A.’s history of white supremacy and displacement of people of color. That’s the capital ’T’ Truth the film explores, and it’s woven into practically every facet and scene of the story.”
BFI programmer Geoff Andrew presents a primer on Abbas Kiarostami.
Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews “is just the crude culmination of a long and singular career,” argues Alex Shephard at the New Republic.
Curtis Armstrong has a new book out, Revenge of the Nerd, and the Hollywood Reporter’s running an excerpt which takes us back to the summer of 1982. And to the set of Risky Business. It wasn’t a quiet one.
Writing for Filmmaker, Penny Lane offers “an appreciation for the unintentionally bad documentaries, the ones that sincerely want to be a documentary but fail in some wonderful and delightful way.”
The staff at the Ringer has written up a list of the “50 Best Good Bad Movies.”
In Other News
“The Telluride Film Festival has selected documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer [The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence] as its guest director for its 44th festival, running over Labor Day weekend,” reports Variety’s Dave McNary.
The Locarno Film Festival has announced that it will present its Pardo d’onore Manor to Jean Marie Straub during its seventieth edition, running from August 2 through 12.
“Daniel Day-Lewis, widely considered one of the preeminent actors of his generation, is retiring from acting,” reports Brent Lang for Variety. “In a statement, Day-Lewis’s spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, confirmed the news: ‘Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.’” Day-Lewis’s last performance on film will be in Paul Thomas Anderson’s as-yet-untitled “drama set in the world of high fashion.”
Via J Hurtado at ScreenAnarchy comes word that the Chicago Cinema Society has “discovered an uncut Italian 35mm print” of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). They’ve posted clips and announced screenings around the country, beginning with the Metrograph in New York on July 28.
In the Works
We’ve already posted a round on projects in the works today, but this is, as they say, just in. Richard Linklater will no longer direct and Jennifer Lawrence won’t be starring in The Rosie Project, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s Tatiana Siegel. Ben Taylor, who directed all three seasons Catastrophe, is taking over; the leads haven’t yet been cast. Graeme Simsion has adapted his own novel, which “centers on Don Tillman, a brilliant but socially awkward genetics professor who reads an article that claims married men have a longer life expectancy than single men and comes to the logical conclusion that he should get married. But logic and romance are uncommon bedfellows, and Don’s quest is complicated when he starts working with the brilliant but unpredictable Rosie Jarman.”
The new episode of the Film Comment Podcast with Daniel Loría, Violet Lucca, and Nick Pinkerton (57’48”) “focuses not only on streaming, but also on the interactions between global markets and studios, film critics and consumers, and cinephiles and local art house circuits—and why it’s difficult to make a monolithic statement about what the future holds.”
Guest co-hosts David Rodgers and Paula Guthat join Mike White in the Projection Booth to discuss American Psycho (2000). This episode (234’51”) features “interviews with one of the original screenwriters, Roberta Hanley, along with the film's director, Mary Harron and co-screenwriter and actress Guinevere Turner.”
Will Ferrell is on the Bill Simmons Podcast talking about SNL, Old School (2003), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Step Brothers (2008), and more (80’53”). Via the Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth.
Another outstanding audiovisual essay from Kentucker Audley for the Talkhouse Film, “Liar Liar and the Importance of Family” (4’05”).
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