Monday, December 28, 2015

Criticism in the Year 2015

Like last year, I'm highlighting ten pieces of film criticism and commentary that I've been reading throughout 2015. This is writing that I've carried with me through the backroads and byways of my mind as I go about by daily life. There's lots to learn and lots to discover, and I'm eager to read the insights and ideas critics bring to their writing in 2016.

And all of these films (and all of his films) have in such a profound way a struggle within themselves: It’s the struggle of the symmetry.

[David Davidson]: Your MDFF screening series brings something new and exciting to the Toronto film community. These first or second films by new independent directors, which you show, are no longer getting standard theatrical releases. What do you think the role of film festivals and alternative screening platforms, like your own, is to make their work more accessible?

[Kazik Radwanski]: I don't know exactly. There's that gut feeling you have with a certain film that this film needs to play in Toronto. That it would be a shame to watch this film alone on a computer. The collective experience of watching a film or the atmosphere of a theatre is crucial. Be it ten people in a room on a digital projector or 300 in a movie theatre. I start to feel uneasy when does happen regularly. It feels unhealthy like something is broken or we are experiencing a drought. Certain films need to live or at least make an appearance here to feel good about the city where I work in and call my home.

That LA is a captivating and problematic place to live, work, and play is just one of the hidden upshots of Priority Innfield, a tetralogy that veers from the Arcadian exuberance of Any Ever and meticulously examines both the promise and limitations of performance-based escapism.

Experimental cinema can be daunting, especially given the mountain of pretentious academia that surrounds it. But horror fans can dig it. Sometimes we just need a hook.

Perhaps because there continue to be so many of them, and they come at such a steady clip, Woody Allen’s movies aren’t generally given much aesthetic consideration. And if one does talk about them as cinema, it’s usually in terms of individual properties, with each film broken down into its constituent parts.

Like the work of the artist whose life and times it evokes, Peter Watkins’s 1974 film Edvard Munch comes off as a thing of frayed nerves, passionate resentments, and stray sexual frustrations, made on what feels like the edge of delirium and out of what seems like a desperate need to confess or exhume. The truth of the matter, in the case of Edvard Munch’s paintings and Watkins’s movie, is more complicated than that description suggests.

  • Nick Pinkerton, "Interview: Larry Clark," [Parts One & Two], Film Comment
[The Smell of Us] is, in form, the most out-there, elliptical film that Clark has ever made—an approach demanded by the contingencies of the production, as he revealed in the course of an interview last week.

[László] Nemes’ visual style melds several approaches. In addition to a fondness for Dardennes-like over-the shoulder shots, much of the film intersperses fairly conventional editing choices with art cinema flourishes, primarily the use of shallow focus and vertiginous camera movements, that succinctly convey the chaos that erupted in Auschwitz as the demands of survival vied with futile attempts at rebellion [...] This push-pull strategy seems designed to please both Establishment critics and art-cinema devotees.

Two days before The Dissolve’s shuttering, the unabashedly lowest-common-denominator film news/rumors/etc. site CinemaBlend was acquired by Gateway Media, meaning that its approach works: there’s a large enough and profitable audience for articles like (example chosen at random) “5 Huge Things The Batman v Superman Trailer Taught Us About Lex Luthor.” A lot of “film news” often reads like what it is: a hastily reformatted and barely altered press release.

The further into discovering digital [Michael Mann's] gone - the medium someone else found for him, that he knew would be the future, for better or worse - the further away from audiences he's gotten and the more he's burrowed into a select few critics' hearts.

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