A designer of many things, a teacher of many students, and a snob of all things film.
It’s been almost a week since I saw Umberto D.. I’ve struggled to write about it because this film just wrecked me. It’s from 1952, so yes, the soundtrack may swell too much in places and its sentimentality is occasionally worn too much on its sleeve for cynical, steely 2023 audiences. The relative naysayers in my film club hammered as much in their reactions to it, and from a more academically removed vantage point, I don’t disagree.
Yet, I dismiss…
The last scene (spoiler alert!) of Oppenheimer is Nolan’s tell as a filmmaker. Instead of ending the film with the Rosebud-esque reveal between Cillian Murphy’s Oppenheimer and Tom Conti’s Einstein, Nolan zooms out into fucking space to an Earth aflame. The hubris-enabled, thuddingly obvious metaphor, coupled with incidental humanity framed at the scale of atoms, encapsulates Nolan’s fatal flaw as an artist. He’s too concerned with movie mechanics and abstract ideas to really consider those pesky people populating his films…
After reading a bunch of Flannery O’Connor over the last few years (including the eponymous novel this film was based on), adpating her work for the screen would seem a tall order. So kudos to John Huston for even attempting it.
Wise Blood, the novel, is a bit lumpy and overly episodic; its narrative wayward and undercooked. But O’Connor’s inimitable styling manages to hold it all together and give it a cumulative force. Huston isn’t enough of an auteur to…
I watched this with my ten-year-old niece, who had never heard of Pee-Wee Herman, and she liked it a lot. But for myself—who was weaned on the original HBO comedy special, Tim Burton’s Big Adventure, and the Saturday morning series—this was depressingly anodyne. Judd Apatow has turned into the sappy king of comedy schmaltz. He needs to stop sanding off the rough edges of, well, everything he puts his imprint on.
Nonetheless, I’m glad Pee-Wee got one last outing before Reubens left us. He will be missed.
Maybe the best film of the year. (So far, anyway.)
Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s real accomplishment here is his alchemic mix of the sentimental and the steely. Shoplifters never shies away from depicting the precariousness of living on the fringes of society. This is a Tokyo we rarely see in film and shoplifting is only one of many questionable survival tactics used by the characters here.
But the film is also a wonderfully shaded portrait of a family that both affirms…
How many New Yorkers who saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing when it was first released in 1989 suddenly felt alien in their own city? I’d guess a lot of them. (Hell, I was stunned and disoriented after seeing it in Pittsburgh.) The Last Black Man in San Francisco is not as fiery and confrontational as Lee’s masterpiece, but it’s no less effective in re-framing a city I have lived in for 25+ years.
The obvious signposts of gentrification…