Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wong Kar-wai, Ranked

Another ranked piece, this one again commissioned by To be honest, it's not one I planned on doing, both because Wong's filmography is small and most of it is of such a quality as to make "ranking" even more irrelevant than usual, but then if it lets me write capsules for this great director's work, so be it.

My list is up at

TIFF Review: The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld (Errol Morris, 2013)

First up from TIFF, the new Errol Morris documentary, a worthy (if inferior) companion to The Fog of War that finds another defense secretary who presided over a military disaster. To see Rumsfeld, so close to the wars that have yet to fully cease, smiling and justifying himself provokes a special kind of rage, yet what really stuck out watching his benign support for war on the thinnest grounds was how much the unlearned lessons of Rumsfeld's tenure seemed prime to take us into yet another conflict. Since this review was filed and published, America's seemingly inevitable move into Syria has been thankfully stalled (at least for the moment), but The Unknown Known still seeps into the skin as a glimpse not only into the self-delusion that made the first stage of the War on Terror possible but into the lingering insanity that may lead us into the next era of it.

My full review is up at

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fanboy Contra Fanboy: The Genius of Edgar Wright

Managed to get this done just before leaving for Toronto. I loved The World's End as I have loved all of Edgar Wright's work, as ever for its critique of fan culture as its embrace of that culture's irascible childishness. Writing about the director's latest thus necessitated an overview of his entire career, which I find to be a subversive comment on everything the filmmaker holds dear. To call The World's End (or any of the others) "mature" is to miss the more complex relationship with nerdiness that Wright explores, and that he explores it with such exciting, seemingly forgotten mainstream chops only makes him more engaging.

My full piece is up at Movie Mezzanine.

TIFF Review: Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)

 I wasn't the biggest fan of Birth, as this blog will attest, but I found Jonathan Glazer's return to feature filmmaking one of the year's most exciting events. In a time when an enjoyable trifle like the derivative Moon can be hoisted up as great conceptual sci-fi, Under the Skin appears as a singular object, stark to the point of being surreal even before it steps into sequences of inky voids and doomed, horny men. Admittedly, the film comes with its own reference points (chief among them The Man Who Fell to Earth), but what's remarkable is how many of the films that come to mind have little to do with sci-fi, instead recalling the work of Abbas Kiarostami or Morvern Collar. And as its hypnotic rhythms are disrupted in a final act of intimate chaos, it becomes clear that the film stands as one of the finest explorations of female sexuality and society's shaping of it. Women taught about sex as an external process learn the hard way about its actual, physical properties in ways both benign and terrifying.

Check out my full review at Movie Mezzanine.

Love Is a Battlefield: The Romantic VIolence of Wong Kar-wai

With Wong Kar-wai's masterful (if you stick to the Chinese cut) The Grandmaster out now, I was drawn to the parallels between this ostensible commercial Wong and the last time he dabbled in populist Chinese genre with Ashes of Time. Both films seem such major departures for their maker, but they reveal Wong's cinema of regret and longing through action tropes, in some ways distilling his work to its most ineffable essence. His violence is thrillingly mounted, but Wong's wuxia films devote most of their time to the corrupting effect of that violence, and both films hold the keys to his entire oeuvre.

Read my full thoughts at

Brian De Palma, Ranked

I hear a lot of valid objections to ranking a director's filmography, most of which I share, but the format at least allows me to argue for some of the more idiosyncratic and neglected entries in a director's oeuvre, which is what I tried to do with the work of Brian De Palma. The nice thing about De Palma is that even hardcore fans can disagree wildly on what constitutes his best work, and I hope some of my more unorthodox loves convince a few people to give movies like Mission to Mars and The Black Dahlia another shot.

My full piece is at

Leos Carax Retrospective

This event was Toronto-specific and has since passed, but I still got to write some words about each of Leos Carax's remarkable features for Dork Shelf. Give it a read if you want some brief thoughts on the man's work.

Austenland (Jerusha Hess, 2013)

My slackness in updating this blog has gotten embarrassing. I still need to link to all my TIFF coverage and even put up links for material that preceded my Toronto trip. In the meantime, though, I'll post my review for a film I saw just before TIFF started, for the abysmal and mean-spirited Austenland. Nominally concerning a woman's obsessive Austen love, this film soon drops just about any connection it might have to the author's writing or even stories beyond a Darcy fixation. In fact, the film is by and large hostile to the notion of female sexuality, a cruel irony given how exciting Austen's prose was for stretching the restrictive boundaries of female social life in her time and the manner in which she could critique her characters without mocking them. A game cast is wasted on a despicable script.

My full review is up at Dork Shelf.