Daily | Agee, Cousins, Jarmusch

James Agee

James Agee

Following two entries on the film criticism of James Agee, Manny Farber and Parker Tyler, David Bordwell‘s posted another focusing solely on Agee: “We can talk about his likes and dislikes for a long time, but as with Farber and Tyler, I’m interested in the standards and ideas underlying their tastes. I’m also curious to tease out what they thought was valuable about cinema in general, and American cinema of the 1940s in particular.”

As for film criticism in our own moment, there’s been quite a bit of ruminating on the state of it lately—again. Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty argues that, in 2013, “grade inflation by critics became a commonly deployed strategy for dealing with the cultural and economic insecurity that shows no signs of abating in post-recessionary America.” Criticwire‘s Sam Adams pokes a hole in his argument.

“Every film festival, every film magazine, every university is asking, ‘What’s the future of film criticism in the age of the internet?'” notes Mark Cousins in an essay for Sight & Sound. “They are overestimating the revolution, I think. The smell of gunpowder has gone to their heads. Criticism is about first-order things like creativity, knowledge, expressivity, protest, play, advocacy, enchantment, passion, activism and art. None of these were invented by the internet. Most of them are what it—the internet, a second-order thing—yearns for.”

Those first order things are indeed first order, but they’re also intangible. At Criticwire, Danny Bowes has been talking to people who’ve been trying to make a living writing about movies and argues: “Film criticism is at something of a crossroads, both symbolically and actually.”

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013: Walter Murch: “From The Godfather to The God Particle”


“There’s something about modern-day acting—the style that is famously associated with Lee Strasberg’s Method and that gained currency from his Actors Studio and its offshoots—that inclines toward deformations of character,” writes the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody. Tom Shone in Intelligent Life: “Screen acting has never been showier than right now.”

Back to the New Yorker, to Anthony Lane: “The Oscars, it turns out, are made for life online.” And for Vanity Fair, David Thomson recounts the founding of the Academy and its awards: Louis B. Mayer “and his pals decided they needed an organization to handle labor problems at the studio without having to get into the union thing, and it would be a public relations operation that pumped out the message that Hollywood was a wonderful place where delightful and thrilling stories were made to give the folks a good time.”

There’s a new issue of Cineaste out, but not much of it is online. Besides a few previews of articles in the Spring 2014 issue, though, there are some web exclusives, including Aaron Cutler‘s piece on Criterion’s box set Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project and Graham Fuller‘s on Kino‘s new two-disc Blu-ray release of Josef von Sternberg‘s The Blue Angel (1930).

With Only Lovers Left Alive now out in the UK and the Film Society of Lincoln Center planning a Jim Jarmusch retrospective in April, David Ehrlich and Jonathan Romney profile Jarmusch for the Guardian and Observer, respectively. The FSLC will also be presenting its Charlie Chaplin Award to Rob Reiner; Erik Luers looks back on the career (with clips).

Laura Poitras‘s transmediale 2014 keynote: “Art as Evidence”

“Let’s look past the globules, barnacles, and goo,” writes Chloë Bass at Hyperallergic. “At its heart, Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament is a film about white, male America’s failure to comprehend urbanism.”

“What could possibly rival Vítor Gonçalves’s triumphant comeback as this year’s most exhilarating and intriguing film event?” asks Boris Nelepo in the Notebook.

“In Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the monkeys only wanted to learn how to build their own huts to become human; in Disney’s, it would seem, they want to set the neighborhood aflame.” J. Hoberman in the New York Times on how “the Disney version is truly a product of its moment,” that moment being 1967.

“In many ways, Bob Fosse was [Sally] Bowles.” Dina Gachman on Sam Wasson’s Fosse for the Los Angeles Review of Books.


“Takashi Yamazaki’s World War II drama Eien no Zero (The Eternal Zero), whose pilot hero joins the tokkōtai (kamikaze) suicide squadron in the closing days of the war, has soared to the box office heights since its Dec. 21 release,” reports Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. “After ranking No. 1 in the charts for eight weeks in a row, the film now looks likely to finish its run with more than ¥8 billion, making it one of the 10 top-grossing Japanese films of all time.” But it does have its critics, among them, Hayao Miyazaki: “They’re trying to make a Zero fighter story based on a fictional war account that is a pack of lies. They’re just continuing a phony myth, saying, ‘Take pride in the Zero fighter.’ I’ve hated that sort of thing ever since I was a kid.”

From Nelson Carvajal: “Social Anthropology in Film: The Narratives of Darren Aronofsky”

“Responding to recent articles in the New York Times and Salon, filmmaker Kentucker Audley has launched a petition asking ‘mediocre’ independent filmmakers to stop making films.” Love it. Scott Macaulay reports at Filmmaker.

The full lineup of jurors for the SXSW Film and Design Competition has been announced today.


Variety has “reached out to over 150 internationally known film critics, historians, film fest directors and global industry pros, as well as Variety‘s inhouse film critics, reporters, editors and freelancers, to pick the best film, director, actor, actress and screenwriter” of 2013. Gravity, Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett top the inaugural World’s Best Picture poll.

22 international critics, curators and producers have voted up a list of the best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013 for Sight & Sound. And those votes are spread far and wide. Even the #1 release, 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman, has scored only four votes.

“Picking ten is worse than trying to choose between my wives, my dog, and my kids.” He’s got a few ties in there, but he did it: Monte Hellman‘s top ten Criterion releases.


The Czech Film and Television Academy’s Lions are pretty much the Republic’s Oscars. Agnieszka Holland’s Burning Bush was nominated for fourteen of them—and took home eleven over the weekend, setting a new record. Martin Kudláč reports for Cineuropa, where Jorn Rossing Jensen notes that the big winner in Iceland is Benedikt Erlingsson’s feature debut, Of Horses and Men.

Gravity and Frozen continued to lay waste to their competition in technical awards races as the two much-lauded pics collected motion picture mixing honors at the Cinema Audio Society Awards Saturday night,” reports David S. Cohen for Variety.

From Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Inside Llewyn Davis and Blue is the Warmest Color top the International Cinephile Society‘s awards. Meantime, 12 Years a Slave has cleaned up at both the Satellite Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.


New York. At the L, Justin Stewart recommends catching Chabrol‘s Color of Lies (1999) tonight at the French Institute, while Jeremy Polacek goes for Shirley Clarke‘s The Connection (1962), screening tonight at Nitehawk.

Paris. Triptyques Atypiques, Agnès Varda‘s solo exhibition at Galerie Nathalie Obadia, is on view through April 5.


Marcel Ophüls has been in Berlin over the weekend and Ralph Eue‘s interviewed him for the Tagesspiegel. Ophüls, now 87, hopes to make a feature about Ernst Lubitsch starring Dustin Hoffman. The story would be told from the point of view of Lubitsch’s private secretary, and for that role, he’d like Jeanne Moreau.

Edward Norton’s been planning an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn since 1999. Now with Brett Ratner on board as producer, shooting should finally begin in the fall. Kevin Jagernauth reports at the Playlist. Also: Bryan Cranston and Edgar Ramirez have joined Naomi Watts in Errol Morris’s narrative feature Holland, Michigan, which’ll begin shooting this summer.

New trailer for Steven Knight’s Locke

Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya, Norwegian Wood) will direct Mélanie Laurent, Audrey Tautou and Bérénice Bejo in Eternité (Eternity), an adaptation of Alice Ferney’s novel L’élégance des Veuves, “revolving around the theme of motherhood and three women who face up to tragedy and unhappiness with dignity,” reports Melanie Goodfellow for Screen Daily.

And Screen‘s Andreas Wiseman reports that Tom Hardy is in talks to play both Ronald and Reginald Kray, “the identical twin brothers infamous for their criminal exploits in London during the 1950s and 1960s,” in Legend, written by Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar in 1998 for his screenplay for L.A. Confidential.

Eddie Izzard is joining Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger and Josh Lucas in the musical drama Boychoir, reports Ben Beaumont-Thomas in the Guardian. “It will be directed by Francois Girard, director of Silk and The Red Violin, and is written by Ben Ripley, who penned Jake Gyllenhaal thriller Source Code.”


“Robert M. Fresco, an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who began his career as a writer of horror pictures, died on Feb. 14 in Manhattan,” reports Margolit Fox in the New York Times. “He was 83…. With his co-producer, Denis Sanders, Mr. Fresco won an Oscar in 1969 for the documentary short Czechoslovakia 1968. The film, which the two men also wrote and directed, chronicled a half-century of Czech history, culminating in the Prague Spring uprising of 1968.”


Listening (98’31”). Peter Labuza’s latest guest on his Cinephiliacs podcast is none other than Kent Jones.

Viewing (13’13”). At the Notebook, Ricky D’Ambrose interviews Alex Ross Perry.

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