For as long as Keyframe has been kicking around, I’ve been angling for a way to bring the unmistakable voice of Mike D’Angelo into the fold. Indisputably one of the most prolific and influential film critics in the online era, D’Angelo was one of the first to leverage his movie reviewing on his personal site The Man Who Viewed Too Much into a professional career. That, combined with his trenchant, often mercilessly insightful approach to films, made him a model after which many young aspiring film writers have aspired.
Despite his impact on web movie culture, D’Angelo is an avowed critic of old school film writing, which may account for why he has parried my invitations to try out new forms of criticism with images and video on Keyframe. What he may not realize is that he has already mastered a new forum (and form) for film writing: Twitter. Amidst the maelstrom of tweeting generated by this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, D’Angelo’s ultra-pithy impressions of the 34 films he watched (or walked out on – he has a reputation for doing that) form a gem trail that stimulate interest even in their most punishing assessments. To tell the truth, D’Angelo did submit a TIFF wrap-up for Keyframe last year, but comparing the two, I find his Twitter coverage far more exciting in employing a new kind of film writing aesthetic.
I’ve taken the trouble of compiling all of D’Angelo’s tweet reviews from TIFF (as of Friday morning 9/16), listed from top to bottom. Lengthier accounts of these films can be found on D’Angelo’s website. We should note that D’Angelo employs a 100 point rating scale that makes full use of the bell curve: at first it may seem that he’s become jaded from viewing too many films, but “50” denotes an average film, the true median of all the films he reviews, with everything above recommendable in increasing order. As suggested by his tweets on A Separation, his favorite film of TIFF, he seems to yield masterpiece status to a film in spite of himself – which makes films that rank in the 80s and 90s on his scale tantamount to historic events.
For points of comparison, click on the linked entries to see what Fandor’s in-house reviewers had to say about the same film.
A Separation (Farhadi): 95. Just devastating. Approaches the heights of Ibsen or Chekhov without being remotely theatrical or stagy.
Utterly wrecked by A SEPARATION. Street cred in jeopardy. Want to let it settle but my initial impulse is this is my favorite film in yrs.
The Loneliest Planet (Loktev): 84. Pivots on a moment so extraordinary I thought at first I must have seen it wrong. Genius use of duration.
The Deep Blue Sea (Davies): 78 “Where are you going?” “TO THE IMPRESSIONISTS!” Gorgeously heightened treatment of a stubbornly prosaic play.
House of Tolerance (Bonello): 76. (Was a chickenshit 69.) Me: “Everyone @ Cannes flat-out ridiculed it.” @st_ults : “Do they hate cinema?”
Rampart (Moverman): 70. Pungent, ferociously anti-sentimental bad-lieutenant character study plays like Ellroy’s THE SHIELD: THE MOVIE.
Damsels in Distress (Stillman): 67. Surprisingly broad—his previous films felt incidentally comic, but this is a Comedy. Pretty funny one.
Your Sister’s Sister (Shelton): 63. More brilliant improv, but entire movie is act one of a two-act play, w/act 2 replaced by a bad montage.
Almayer’s Folly (Akerman): 61. Odd, fascinating amalgam of mobile camera, declamatory performances, striking locations, theatrical staging.
Porfirio (Landes): 60. Curious docu-style re-enactment boasts terrific camera subject, fascinating detail. Weirdly underplays its finale.
Keyhole (Maddin): 56. Much stronger as gangster pastiche than as psychosexual ghost story. Inspired bits get lost within rambling structure.
I Wish (Kore-eda): 56. Innocuous fluff, but light on sentimentality and not without charm. Plays like an uncommonly subdued kids’ film.
The Turin Horse (Tarr): 55. The entire world as Bartleby: It would prefer not to. DIELMAN-esque structure is problematic in this context.
God Bless America (Goldthwait): 54. Deft shooting at easy targets. Witless rants disappoint, but Bobcat’s grown enormously as a filmmaker.
Goodbye First Love (Hansen-Løve): 53. Nicely observed, but it’s as if BEFORE SUNSET had been shot in 1996. Characters needed to visibly age.
Shame (McQueen): 53. Superlative form squandered on banal content.Stop distracting me from out-of-focus Looney Tunes w/your rote foreground.
Paradise Lost 3 (Berlinger/Sinofsky): 52. Better than #2, but still strictly an addendum. Power of original was specific to that time/place.
Intruders (Fresnadillo): 52. Stupid but sporadically potent. Obvious 3rd-act twist justified by thematic resonance (where fear comes from).
A Better Life (Kahn): 51. Disappointingly programmatic tale of downward mobility rescued somewhat by sharp details, strong performances.
Into the Abyss (Herzog): 50. Not sure what drew him 2 this one. He seems more interested in the one inmate’s creepy wife than anything else.
Wuthering Heights (Arnold): 50. I mean, at least she tried. Poetic flourishes sometimes effective, thx largely to conception of young Cath.
Guess it was daft of me to suppose that A. Arnold’s unconventional approach to WUTHERING HEIGHTS might involve acknowledging its 2nd half.
Good Bye (Rasoulof): 49. More political statement than movie. Even as a movie it’s on shaky ground, with the symbolic turtle and so forth.
The Descendants (Payne): 49. Flat-out awful at first, eventually finds powerful moments for Payne to inexplicably undermine w/cheap laughs.
Alexander Payne: You are a brilliant satirist. Stay away from emotional complexity, it doesn’t suit you (or vice versa).
Life W/o Principle (To): 46. When financial crisis hit, who didn’t think “can’t wait to see what the Milkyway Creative Team makes of this!”?
The Student (Mitre): 45. Expertly made, bafflingly inconsequential portrait of political chicanery, university level. ELECTION w/o satire.
The Forgiveness of Blood (Marston): 45. Zzzzzzzz. (Response to movie + current mental state.)
Elena (Zvyagintsev): 44. Even working in a completely different register, Z still comes across freeze-dried. He needs a touch of vulgarity.
I’m Carolyn Parker (Demme): 43. I guess if you spend 5 yrs on a Katrina doc, you’re not inclined to ask “Is this one really necessary?”
My sense from this, MAN FROM PLAINS and THE AGRONOMIST is that Demme’s receptiveness, so special in his other work, kills him as a docmaker.
A Dangerous Method (Hampton): 42. What’s that? You say Cronenberg directed this turgid pseudo-history? Sure looked like CARRINGTON to me.
Low Life (Klotz): 40. Initially insufferable, w/cast of wannabe L. Garrels both XY & XX (kill me); gets more interesting & more didactic.
Alps (Lanthimos): 39. Egoyanesque scenario’s way too emotionally fraught for Lanthimos’ clinical brand of absurdism. Feels utterly hollow.
Previous ALPS tweet probably heavy on retroactive rationalization. DOGTOOTH mostly worked for me as black comedy; ALPS just not that funny.
And now for the walk-outs:
The Raid (Evans): W/O. Reminded me of repugnant U.S. foreign policy. Seriously, though, I need more than 50 inventive ways to kill a dude.
Snowtown (Kurzel): W/O. Revels in unpleasantness, lacks the insight or chops to make such a brutal experience worthwhile.
Beauty (Hermanus): W/O. Oh for fuck’s sake not the married macho closet case again. Even Chris Cooper couldn’t make this character work.
Century of Birthing (Diaz): W/O. Walked out of a film over five hours ago. I estimate it should be ending……….now.
Loved recurring song element, but enjoyment-to-irritation ratio just seemed like it’d be deadly at 6 hrs.
Also, do his other films look this cruddy? He seems to be using b&w as shorthand for “art film,” paying zero attention to light & shadow.
Follow Mike D’Angelo on Twitter.