Reasons for Not Working

Nevertheless, for about a month, my output has really waned. Which isn't to say I've been idle. Lately I've kept up two blogs, this one and the one at Facets which I do more or less professionally and requires more fiddly attention. In fact, my ideas are still out there turning over as rapidly as ever. And that's just my public work, I've been more prodigious in areas which won't get so much attention. Saying all this brings me dangerously close to making excuses. That's something I don't really want to do.

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Color Cinematography

Color Cinematography

The argument I lay out about color cinematography here is simple but has profound ramifications for how we may understand the use of color in film. Right off the bat I'd like to dispense with the idea that somehow color film is some important, groundbreaking moment for filmmaking. It's not, especially by comparison to the addition of sound to the typical movie going experience, color has just been part of going to the movies basically since the word go. It's a technical improvement rather than a more categorical change.

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Top 100: Shame and The Last Picture Show

95. Shame (2011)

So this has always been a bit of a weird pick and this is a movie which might diminish in luster over the years just by virtue of being drowned out by discovering new movies. Nevertheless, I actually feel like I haven't seen many movies that deal with the content this movie deals with quite as directly as this film does, and that's a good thing. Additionally Shame is unbelievably well acted and very well directed by this great partnership between Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen. It's simply one of the best films of the past ten years, and deserves to be here by virtue of the wide scope of this list.

96. The Last Picture Show (1971)

The Last Picture Show is one of the classics that stands the test of time. It's bleak and devastating Americana which is certainly the kind of material I really enjoy. But, even though this is the kind of material I like, it's also something one has to be pretty picky about. So The Last Picture Show stands above the cohort of its genre. It reaches unlikely heights with a period setting, and a perverse look at youth. It's a hard movie to shake.

Top 100: Scorpio Rising and Drive

81. Scorpio Rising (1963)

This is a movie that sort of had a big influence on me in terms of what I realized could be done on screen. When you see Scorpio Rising you sort of get this weird nostalgic feeling, almost like you've been waiting half your life to finally see this movie. It's hard to capture in words, but this unexpected movie looks as you'd expect it to. It's iconic all around, playful with it's material and imagery. It's somehow both dark and irreverent. It's weird and experimental, it borrows imagery and sound, but has become iconic itself. And it might have the best soundtrack in film history.

80. Drive (2011)

For a time it seemed like Drive was increasingly going to be heralded as a classic of 2010s filmmaking. That's sort of been true, but as a film it's continued to be overshadowed by machinations in the industry. Basically I don't think that viewers should be distracted from how original and cool this misunderstood movie is. I still enjoy its perverse beauty and tense chases even as it continues to get buried by better films arriving later in the decade. This is still a prime example of what modern filmmaking looks like.

Top 100: Ratatouille and The Great Beauty

50. Ratatouille (2007)

Everyone loves Pixar films, especially the ones from which Pixar has fallen from the grace of you might say. Ratatouille is one of the true greats of the time Pixar was producing good films. It comes down to its visuals of course, this is such a beautiful film to look at. But that beautiful cinematic image is really the result of some real exacting, painstaking work put in by the animators to not settle for anything less than the best performances and the best imagery of any film possible. Ratatouille lives up to this adage about the best films being ones you can watch without the sound on.

49. The Great Beauty (2013)

I'll admit it, I really am a sucker for really pretty looking films. And The Great Beauty lives up to its name. It's bright and saturated and it's shot around Rome which is just shooting fish in a barrel for beautiful scenery of course. And this really is one of the most drop dead gorgeous films that's come out in the past few years. But The Great Beauty goes above and beyond by making use of some fairly new cinematic techniques while talking about growing old and how superficial much of the art-world is. It's remarkably fresh, dreamlike, and honest for a movie that is about growing old, disenchanted, and callous. Moreover, this is a movie that could have been cynical and thin itself (a fact it seems pretty self aware of) and comes out on top. The Great Beauty may show the most truth in beauty of any film from the past decade.

Top 100: Mulholland Dr. and Léon: The Professional

57. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I suppose Mulholland Dr. is that typically weird movie that people associate with a high degree of film snobbery. And it is. It's also not the best aged film ever. For one, I think audiences are less taken by the odd or the surreal even as they take in more and more film that is so sternly realist although spectacle rich. The sort of lack of tricks here makes Mulholland Dr. not as attractive to watch by todays standards. Additionally there's some fetishistic moments, despite having numerous, well thought out, female leads, Lynch and Mulholland Dr. seem like the kind of filmmaker and feature that will be open to valid criticism along these lines. However, I do feel that Mulholland Dr. is on solid ground in all these respects.

The real thing that makes Mulholland Dr. work so well is in fact its metafilm status and its formal approach. What Mulholland Dr. really showcases is Lynch's own ability to use the medium so well and set up a meditation on filmmaking while simultaneously creating a film grammar that plays the audience like a fiddle.

56. Léon: The Professional (1994)

I guess this is really a staple of best movie lists. I always feel a little weird including it, because Léon is more than a little over the top. What I think makes it work is that it's very smart and very intimate throughout all this chaos. The intimacy and chaotic blend is something that's missing from films with a lot of shock value or scale that really should be present to make that film powerful. The scene with Mathilda sniping from the roof is so smart and suspenseful, it makes other moments that are maybe less extreme than they could be all the more powerful. Of course there are some great performances anchoring Léon as well. Jean Reno in particular really adds a lot of emotional depth to Natalie Portman's young joie de vivre, another combination that is absent in most other films that are so frenetic. Léon: The Professional uses everything at it's disposal while it's throwing everything that it's got at us.

Top 100: The Social Network and The Third Man

Even after years of working with movies in this particular critical exercise, I've never quite done the work to really explore the Top 100 on a more individualist level. I've never memorized the ordered list either. Usually I just keep a copy around and develop an intuitive sense of it over the year. This year, since the Top 100 was sort of rigid in it's approach, more so than in years past, I'm going to try to write about every film on the list.

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