Chatting with Spike Lee about film, history, and the moments they align, on the release of BlackKlansman. 2019.
Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh, in Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate. Hemispheres, 2018.
Little Werner Needs to Fly
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). s-w-e-e-t.com. Feb, 2016.
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
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.
American Sniper: Films aiming to honor slain war heroes will round off some rough edges.
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
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
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
You taught me language; and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Cindy Meehl’s Buck. On the real horse whisperer, equine mystic, and cowboy saint, Buck Brannaman.
Well, do ya? Funk?
Afros and Kung-Fu
On the raw magnum comedy of Black Dynamite, VanityFair.com
East Meets Wes
On Wes Anderson and The Darjeeling Limited.
Shut Up, Memory!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman (obliquely, brilliantly), both praise love.
Block that rhetorical figure: The many big ideas in Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche, New York.
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.
An encomium for The Film Society’s lifetime achievement award winner of 2005.