James Westbrook

All those monkeys writing Shakespeare lost interest and started reviewing movies instead.

Favorite films

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Tropical Malady
  • The Intruder
  • The Hole

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  • Mad God

    ★★★★

  • Flux Gourmet

    ★★★★

  • Saloum

    ★★★

  • Don't Worry Darling

    ★★

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  • The Power of the Dog

    The Power of the Dog

    ★★★★½

    (EDIT: Giving this piece the profile bump to celebrate My Favorite Films of 2021. Here's to all of 2021's weirdo movies and their psychosexual twists and turns. Check that list for brief thoughts on all those movies, or continue on for some juicy, spoiler-filled analysis of this one.)

    There's cold in the eyes of Phil Burbank, a judgmental deadness in his stare. He thinks in terms of power, sees the world as a place where everyone is always playing everyone…

  • Paris, Texas

    Paris, Texas

    ★★★★★

    The America of Paris, Texas is an America of horizons. Grass-flecked deserts that go on for miles, hills that crest and recede far past where we can see them, and sunsets that sweep across everything in sight, the earth descending into twilight blue as the sky dances in hues of gold and purple. Even when Travis Henderson sits on the hill top of his brother's swanky L.A. home the city lights below him stretch for so far, glitter and blink…

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  • Mad God

    Mad God

    ★★★★

    A symphony of the grotesque; the human form warped into the monstrous, the monstrous devouring itself, hell and heaven as the same liminal space stuck between meat and machine. Existence only beginning out of an act of evil, life itself expendable yet every movement and texture fussed over as only a stop motion film could be. Those packed frames! Those deep blacks and reds and too-contrasty lights! Those moments where real people suddenly appear next to all these artificial puppets…

  • Flux Gourmet

    Flux Gourmet

    ★★★★

    A few changes to the timeline here or there, a Warhol-esque figure with the right advertising touch or a Van Gogh-like genius with the right tragic backstory, and it's easy to imagine the history of art morphing into what we see in Flux Gourmet. In some ways Gourmet's false world makes more sense than the real one; why aren't the arts more tightly intertwined with the worlds of food and sex, considering art often comes in bursts of subconscious inspiration…

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  • Nomadland

    Nomadland

    ★★½

    As if independent film's lingering obsession with Malick fucked a Vox explainer on the ripple effects of the '08 housing crash. It's at its best when it embraces the oral tradition and lets Real People tell their stories in warmly lit wide-angle close-ups, but it's telling that those moments come and go in bite-sized snippets that are largely window dressing for Nomadland's real obsession: watching Francis McDormand perform poverty against self-consciously-beautiful Western backdrops. There's an argument to be made that…

  • Sweetgrass

    Sweetgrass

    ★★★★

    For a couple years after I moved to Atlanta I sometimes worked as a camera assistant for a corporate video company. A lot of their clients were agriculture-related, and for one series of videos we traveled to a handful of farms across the U.S.: I visited peanut farms in south Georgia, Oklahoma, and Virginia, and worked on a tractor ad in rural Oregon. My primary job was to sit in the backseat of a car as we drove between locations,…