He’s Gotta Have It

Chatting with Spike Lee about film, history, and the moments they align, on the release of BlackKlansman. 2019.

Visions of Van Gogh

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh, in Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate. Hemispheres, 2018.

Little Werner Needs to Fly

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Werner Herzog (bottom) plays winter sportscaster in his pivotal doc, The Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (1974), a surpassingly lyrical sports film on the enigmatic, physics-defying Swiss sculptor/ski flier Walter Steiner (top). Feb, 2016.

Kitchen-Sink Kink

Ray Davies, auteur of song and screen. 2015.




Paul Dano—and John Cusack—are Brian Wilson in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy. 2015.


Lie Vs. Lie

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The recursive ironies in the title, True Story, cause vertigo in Rupert Goold’s film adaptation of s spurious journalist’s true-crime memoir. You supply the prose poems. I’ll supply James Franco, Jonah Hill, $40 million, and the war. 2015.

Trigger Warning

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American Sniper: Films aiming to honor slain war heroes will round off some rough edges.


Performance Anxiety



The sadistic mind games and consuming perfectionism at the heart of Damien Chazelle’s stinging Whiplash. 2014.

David Vs. Goliath



Chasing reality in two tales of modern piracy, A Hijacking (top) and Captain Phillips (bottom).

Greatest (OK, “Most”) Hits


 Rising from the depths like a Venus of the Valley, Phoebe Cates launched a song-length version of the male adolescent tragic arc: from soaring fantasia to sexual humiliation, as the naiad of Judge Reinhold’s imaginings walks in him log-flogging to her image. This slo-mo strut made an instant classic of the accompanying Cars song, as Cates’ secondary sexual characteristics move, unforgettably, in stereo.

Art of the Deadpan

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Bill Murray in Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers. On the face of a master, the deadpan can still bloom with life—revealing longing, love, sympathy, desire, or terror, all while establishing an odd kind of complicity with the viewer, an almost metaphysical acknowledgement that audience, character, and actor are in this thing together.) Also appears in New York University’s textbook, Writing the Essay—Art in the World, The World Through Art. 

Dark Star: The Case of Sixto Rodriguez

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Searching for Sugar Man. If the 40 years since Ziggy Stardust teach us anything, it’s this: distrust any rock bios ending with onstage self-immolation.

The End of the Beginning



Let me be wafted./Let me glide noiselessly forth; /With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,/Set ope the doors O soul./Tenderly—be not impatient,/(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh!/Strong is your hold O love. The dangerous sex, bad drugs, and eternal bliss of Gaspar Noe‘s post-mortem melodrama.

The “Quiet” One

Scorcese’s George Harrison: Living In the Material World rediscovers the Beatles through one not-so-silent partner.

Almost Human


You taught me language; and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse. 

FClogoDavid Marsh’s Project NIM, about the primate subject of a 1970s linguistic experiment. Raised in a family of humans, led to believe he was one.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo



Cindy Meehl’s Buck. On the real horse whisperer, equine mystic, and cowboy saint, Buck Brannaman.

Well, do ya? Funk?


FClogoLalo Schifrin: Maestro of the sleazy, gritty post-Vietnam action film.

Afros and Kung-Fu


On the raw magnum comedy of Black Dynamite,

East Meets Wes

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On Wes Anderson and The Darjeeling Limited.

Shut Up, Memory!

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindMichel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman (obliquely, brilliantly), both praise love.


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Block that rhetorical figure: The many big ideas in Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. 

Funny Games



Black comedy, high style: squalor, brutality, and debasement from Flanders’ Koen Mortier.

On Godard and Love



The gorgeous Éloge de l’amour, a film true to its director’s credo: it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order.

The Post-Graduate

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An encomium for The Film Society’s lifetime achievement award winner of 2005.