“Last week I was lifted from obscurity to semiobscurity when the website Vocativ announced that I was the most reliable movie critic in the country.” The Chicago Reader‘s J.R. Jones finds this a bit frustrating. As noted a few days ago, the Vocativ piece (with a chart!) is based on Metacritic data, and Jones has “always thought such sites are ridiculous, not to mention a little demeaning: as film editor I try to persuade my contributors that we’re writing literature, not consumer advice. But we all know that’s baloney—how can you be a man of letters when people keep turning your letters into numbers?… Thumbs up, thumbs down; four stars, two stars, no stars; 59 out of a hundred—there’s no respect for words in this racket. Someday I’m going to look up the formula for nitroglycerin and turn it into a sonnet.”
On a related note: “Movies aren’t math,” argues the Dissolve‘s Matt Singer.
Back in the Reader, Ben Sachs revisits The Brink’s Job (1978), William Friedkin’s “first film after Sorcerer and one of the only comedies he directed post-French Connection. I wouldn’t call it an overlooked masterpiece, but it’s eccentric studio filmmaking of a tall order (not to mention hilarious in spots). It certainly looks like nothing else coming out of Hollywood at present.”
Alexander Payne recently spent several days in Wisconsin, and Kristin Thompson posted an entry on his intense cinephilia, his keen sense of narrative, and of course, his films.
“Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was the most talented person of the 20th century,” argues Peter Dreier. “Robeson’s story is so incredible—indeed, mythic—that it would seem to be the stuff of fiction if there weren’t so many records, films, news clippings, Congressional testimonies, and memoirs by his friends, collaborators, and enemies to document its reality. His almost superhuman achievements, his rise from humble origins to great heights, only to fall, tragically, to ignominious depths—his amazing life seems like a fable, the moral of which has been subject to many different interpretations, each shaped by the political orientation of the interpreter.”
Also in the Los Angeles Review of Books, a warning from David Thomson: Jon Boorstin’s Mabel and Me: A Novel About the Movies may be highly addictive. It’s “the raucous, rowdy, randy, ribald, rat-tat-tat prospect of early Hollywood as seen in the meeting of Mabel Normand, little miss marvelous and mysterious, and Jack Smith, who is a cross-section of the American id.”
In the Financial Times, Leo Robson has a good long talk with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker about working with Scorsese and restoring films directed by Michael Powell.
Ross Simonini reviews Matthew Barney’s River of Fundament, which is “not an adaptation of Ancient Evenings, but a collaging of the myth of Osiris, Mailer’s biography, the history of the American automobile, and fragmented perspectives on Mailer’s novel—in particular an insightful review by Harold Bloom…. In some ways, viewing River of Fundament as cinema is unhelpful. Film is its medium, but opera is its form, and it often vibrates with the intensity of Richard Wagner, whose final opera, Parsifal (1882), also ran at around six hours.
Also in the new frieze, artist Jordan Wolfson writes up three films that influenced him growing up and then sketches “some interesting and incomplete thoughts I have on differences and similarities between Koons and Bergman.”
At the AV Club, Mike D’Angelo, writing about the prologue of Guy Maddin‘s “superb 1992 feature” Careful, suggests that “this five-minute sequence would function perfectly well as a stand-alone short, even though it does a magnificent job of setting up the world in which Careful’s bizarre story takes place. Rather than tackle it in my usual five or six paragraphs, then, I’ve opted to break down its first two minutes or so shot by shot.”
In his latest “Bombast” column for Film Comment, Nick Pinkerton examines the varieties of revenge meted out onscreen.
IN THE WORKS
“So China, which is having a string of disputes with Japan over pretty much everything from how to teach history to island-ownership, and Korea, which was brutally colonized by the Japanese and banned Japanese films for years, are teaming up to make a movie about someone killing a famous Japanese guy? What could possibly go wrong?” asks Grady Hendrix. “So while Zhang Yimou is having absolutely terrible ideas, what are actual Korean directors up to?” The new “Kaiju Shakedown” column checks in on Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ji-woon, Ryoo Seung-wan, Park Chan-wook, Kwak Jae-yong, Chang Yoon-hyun, Hur Jin-ho, Lee Chang-dong, Im Sang-soo, Na Hong-jin and Kim Ki-duk.
Omer Fast is directing Tom Sturridge in Remainder, reports Leo Barraclough. “The story, which is based on Tom McCarthy’s novel, follows a young man who tries to reconstruct his past out of fragmented memories. His obsessive efforts are funded by a large financial settlement for an accident he cannot remember, but neither his friends nor he can anticipate the extremes he will go to in realizing his quest.”
Barraclough also reports that Liam Hemsworth, Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki will join Kate Winslet and Judy Davis in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker; and Evan Greenberg will direct Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard in Prima.
A few more from Variety. “Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Imogen Poots and Toby Jones have come on board an untitled murder mystery based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Blunderer,” reports Dave McNary.
Jay Roach will direct The Trade, “based on the 1970s scandal caused by New York Yankees pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, who admitted to swapping wives with one another,” reports Justin Kroll. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck will produce.
George Clooney is “in early talks” to star in Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, reports TheWrap‘s Jeff Sneider, noting that “the story follows a TV personality whose insider trading tips have made him the money guru of Wall Street. When a viewer who lost all of his family’s money on a bad tip from the money expert decides to hold him hostage on air, ratings soar as the entire country tunes in to this media frenzy.”
“Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA) has snapped up rights in key territories to Yorgos Lanthimos’s English-language debut, The Lobster,” reports Screen Daily‘s Andreas Wiseman. “Lanthimos, the Oscar-nominated director of Alps and Dogtooth, directs the comedic love story set in the near future where single people are arrested and transferred to ‘The Hotel.’ Once there, they are obliged to find a mate in 45 days, otherwise, they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into ‘The Woods.'” The cast includes Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and Léa Seydoux.
London. “The BFI will mark the centenary of World War One with a wide-ranging series of programs of key films, archive television dramas, rereleases and archival discoveries including a major three-part project for 2014, 2016 and 2018, The War That Changed Everything.”
Vienna. A Tsai Ming-liang retrospective opens tomorrow at the Stadtkino and runs through May 23.
You’ll have seen that the new restoration of Patrice Chereau‘s Queen Margot (1994) begins its run in New York today before heading out to other cities. Meantime, two entries on other films opening this weekend have been updated through today: Gia Coppola‘s Palo Alto and, opening in the UK, Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. The second entry on Richard Ayoade’s The Double was last updated in April, so for newer reviews, turn to Critics Round Up. There, you’ll also find entries on John Slattery’s God’s Pocket and Atom Egoyan‘s Devil’s Knot.