It was a long year of looking at the lives of others, and even one’s own life, as if through a glass pane, or a warped lens, the recognizable contorted into the surreal or the uncanny. A sprint to what was once quotidian and comfortingly banal tainted by a hideous awareness of the effort of it all to do just that. As what was considered, various privileges notwithstanding, “normal” melts memories of smiles into clownish rictuses mocking the very idea, the only solace left is understanding what little solace is left, and that it’s found in strange in-between spaces of not being the subject or the object so much as in the action itself. Looking, gazing, seeking.
Forgive the histrionics of making broad statements about the world or whatever, but, as others smarter than myself have observed, the pandemic was just an accelerated version of what was already happening. It is then, most dishearteningly, something from which we have learned so little, other than to be swept up in temporal and phenomenological slippages and distortions. Everyone is along for the ride. Yearning, desiring, wanting.
I suppose I was most drawn towards films about looking this year, or the ones that yank you out of that state to force you to evaluate what you’ve been looking at or looking for. It’s a push and pull between dream states, the process of looking the only haven, the only escape. It is ongoing and ceaseless. It’s all that’s left.
Here’s 21 films from 2021.Read the rest of this entry »
The whites of Alia Shawkat’s eyes, despite their size, blind and flood the screen, in contrast with the actress’s olive skin tone, painted Seurat-esque with freckles, her head cut and her body dusted in soot. Her eyes, they’re cream-colored, a blank canvas, white enough that if you were to look into them, you would be staring into the other side. And you do, the blackened lungs of Shawkat’s character, Dory, expelling fear and self-loathing, the smoke and bilious parts of herself boiling over. I can still hear her.
Alone in a trunk, alone in a room, alone with yourself. This is all a fever dream, a nightmare. Or, as the ninth episode’s title might call it, an inferno. Or purgatory.
Who is you, man?
Yeah, n****. You.
The question lingers in the air like the ribbon of smoke that’s unfurled from Kevin’s mouth after a puff from a cigarette. It carries a whiff of both genuine curiosity and the subtle nod that it’s almost rhetorical. Last year, Wesley Morris proposed that 2015 was the year we obsessed over identity, which is not incorrect. But what of this year, when the challenges marginalize communities face grow more visible in the public eye? Even the most loved and adored icons, as they’re so often called, were in some ways center points for discussions of identity – Prince, Bowie, Kiarostami, etc. In essence, haven’t we always been fascinated with not only who we are, but the politicizing of that question, so frequently without a clear answer? Read the rest of this entry »