As Nick Pinkerton’s review notes, the musicals that have come and gone in the last couple of decades have – through form and, to some degree, theme – noted, “They don’t make them like they used to.” But La La Land does try earnestly and effortfully to make them like the used to, “they” being the likes of Jacques Demy or Vincente Minelli or Stanley Donen. I can’t help but wonder why Damien Chazelle, an incredibly proficient director, wanted to “make them like they used to”. Is he just a caustic nostalgist? Read the rest of this entry »
It’s hard to think of the last time one thing, one cultural event that wasn’t something really terrible or sad, simultaneously brought Film Twitter together and tore it apart. (Just kidding, Brandon Nowalk named at least five things that had a similar effect.) I’ve gotten pretty good at either being completely apathetic/indifferent to some, if not most of these debates, or at least keeping my opinion to myself. But this one, concerning the latest Pixar short film, seemed too amusing to not joke about having an opinion in the first place. It managed to engender some very, very vehement feelings, mostly vitriolic. There are certainly a bunch of people who, and I saw this with love and respect for these people, were incredibly smarmy and self-righteous in their defense of this short, but having not yet seen it, I couldn’t properly weigh in on the great Film Twitter debate that was on Lava. Read the rest of this entry »
At the end of The F Word, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) get married. This isn’t surprising, but it is, for me, disappointing. What’s to be most valued in this film, written by Elan Mastai based on the play Cigars and Toothpaste by TJ Dawe and Michael Rinaldi and directed by Michael Dowse, is its brutal honesty about the complicated dynamics of two friends who may or may not be attracted to one another and the concessions they have to make in order to not upset that dynamic. It essentially plays out like When Harry Met Sally…, but less inclined to make one person a victim or a pathetic figure. It lays out its options openly and realistically, acknowledging that people sometimes have to do painful things in order to maintain a kind of balance.
In a feeble effort to make this the one stop place for my writing, I’ve come here to update you on some of my stuffs.
Firstly, I’ve been writing a lot about my new favorite filmmaker Xavier Dolan of late.
Over at IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I wrote about the roles of mothers in his films.
The pet preoccupation of young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is not, at first glance, particularly interesting. Mothers. Alright, someone says, he has mommy issues. But the issue runs far deeper than writing it off so dismissively. For Dolan, as a queer filmmaker, uses his experience, position, and talent to explore mothers with atypical approaches. The divide between a mother and their queer child is also nothing particularly new, but, for at least I Killed My Mother and Laurence Anyways, his maternal characters transcend the roles given to them to become much more.
Over at Movie Mezzanine, I examine obsessive love in Dolan’s Heartbeats via Dalida’s “Bang Bang” and The Knife’s “Pass This On”.
It’s intoxicating. It has the power to the make someone do things out of the ordinary. It augments and manipulates the experience of living. Deep infatuation. Few films are able to pin that experience so accurately as Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, a hyper stylistic, elegant piece of filmmaking about two friends who fall in “love” with the same guy. Dolan is able to articulate the spellbinding effect that infatuation has on the two characters through the use of two songs, “Bang Bang”, describing the competition between Francis and Marie, and “Pass This On”, depicting the obsessive nature of their infatuation. Carefully utilized in the film and played nearly consecutively, Dolan nails what it’s like to be obsessively enamored.
And recently, I just had the fortune to see Dolan’s fourth film, Tom at the Farm. And I’m seeing it again this week, because that’s how I roll. And he’ll be there in person. (Yes, I realize I’m linking to a post that was already on this blog, but, I thought it made sense regardless.)
It’s hard to describe 25 year old Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan as anything but a wunderkind, even if you dislike his work. The rate of output, for one, is impressive, but the products themselves are astonishing. But what happens when an art house enfant terrible steps away from his comfort zone to deliver a straight (or, rather, queer) psychological thriller? Certainly one of the most outstanding, heart racing experiences I’ve had at the theater in ages.
I’ve also been doing other work, such as…
At IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I watched queer romcoms and came up with the best and the worst.
Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.
Will be back later to add more stuff I’ve written lately.
“He seduces you,” says one corner of the cinematic triangle of Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, referring to another corner. There are plenty of films about love, friendship, and love and friendship, but Dolan’s second film, about two friends in love with the same guy, does an impressive thing that few of those films can do: articulate the exact feelings of love and heartbreak through cinematic form. Several films capture moments of love, perhaps even recreate scenes easily identifiable, but the actual emotion itself is hard to render. Wordless, invisible feelings are rendered nearly tangible and very palpable on the screen. The film seems to bleed emotion.
(Author’s Note: What follows is the first, or second if you count the essay on my father, entry in an infrequent series of personal essays I’ll be writing under the category of Art Imitates Life, which, I hope, is fairly self-explanatory.)
Sitting here, it’s almost a little strange thinking about just how resonant Her was for me. I do not doubt that there were others who were connected with the film, and I suppose that’s one of the many successes of Spike Jonze’s love story. From its ability to examine on how we live now to its focus on how we love now, Her does so many things right. And one of them was help me fall in and out of love with the same person.