Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Criticism in the Year 2014

Before 2015, I want to highlight some online film criticism that left an impression on me in 2014.  Again and again, I find myself thinking about or reading these pieces because of the prose and the ideas expressed in them.  This is writing that more people should read and more people should write.  So, I would like to share it.  Hopefully, they are as meaningful to you as they are to me.  

If everything is movement, if everything is formal, so Gray’s camera is no longer a camera-stylo and is now a camera-microscope or a camera-bucksaw, because it whittles and analyses frontally the situations and emotions. Henceforth, if we are seeing a film about someone who is going farther and is crying to reach her destiny to the will of destiny, what is left to us is being complacent to the sanctity of the woman who walks.

What the hell is an Eraserhead? Porn, maybe? Didn’t look like a porn crowd, gay or straight. Nor the glittery trick-or-trashers who came out for The Rocky Horror Picture Show or even the hardy Pink Flamingos faithful. Looked more like the people at the X gig, both onstage and off. She turns this over in her mind for a slow block or two before making a U-turn and going back.

The opening thirty minutes of Robert Zemeckis’s Flight (2012) represents some of the most exhilarating studio filmmaking of recent years.

The daring of Guiraudie’s vision lies in its matter-of-factness—is this the first time a filmmaker (of pornographic films or not) has made scrotums such an integral part of the mise-en-scène? 

I like it when people say that, with some film or other, they had to find a way in—some tear in the fabric, some protruding detail, some aspect seen from a certain angle or in a particular light—before being able to scramble inside and poke around. Bene’s films gave me this messy, corporeal, visceral sense of being right inside the machine of cinema.

To have a strongly Germanic style in 1940s America was to be in possession of gifts that were, given the historical context, the site of highly ambivalent relations.

Some thoughts and advice to budding freelance film critics, on preparing for, and making the most out of, a film festival...

Sorrentino has had ample opportunity to make good on his modest gifts. Like so many mannerists, he is well suited to satire and the grotesque, but with The Great Beauty he has created an inflatable white elephant, a film teeming with grandeur and flourish in the manner of a third-rate stage magician attempting misdirection. 

Wyler felt he “knew these people”, and spent the production searching for a lucid realism. Today “realism” invokes images of a handheld camera bobbing around the streets of Italy, but Wyler was not after neorealism’s immediacy, but the power of Hollywood technology to create maximum legibility.

Yes, anyone could have gotten out their camera and recorded the movements of a cloud; Benning actually did so, as the logical extension (and culmination?) of his landscape and skyscape investigations from the four previous decades.

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