I see too many movies. If I went to a shrink, they’d tell me to try and make some friends or something, but I’ve tried that. It’s not for me. Good thing about the movies is you can’t disappoint them. Can’t fail them. They don’t even know you’re there. But they’ve always been company to me.
Todd Haines’ Velvet Underground inspired me to spend a bunch of money on a guitar I’m scared to even touch. I’ll get to it. Just a matter of time and tricking myself into believing it’s okay to do so. Whatever happens with the guitar, Haines’ doc reminded me how deep the Velvets’ tunes are in my life and for how long. Can’t imagine what it would be like without it.
The Summer of Soul doc was a revelation. Like Woodstock but with good music. Maybe that’s shitty to say, but watching the clips of Nina Simone and Sonny Sharrock and the 5th Dimension and Gladys Knight and many other great great people play in the park in New York made me imagine an alternative, much better music history that might’ve happened had someone in power taken a chance and aired this amazing series of performances on TV or in theaters at the time. Instead, it’s like an unearthed tomb of what could and should have been, but wasn’t.
I don’t know what “best” could possibly mean when it comes to art of any kind, but if I had to choose a movie that most accurately portrayed our current times, it would have to be Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. It’s all about the hipocracy and self-righteousness we all swim in now every time we power up the big and small screens in which we spend most of our lives. Jude keeps making these films about how people tailor history to suit their current purposes. It’s so slippery and easy to manipulate. Like living inside a Choose Your Own Adventure, except it’s not make believe.
Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was the polar opposite. A complete giving-in to fanciful whimsy. It’s a tableau vivant/toy trainset come to life. Anderson’s world is made up entirely of the art of the past, or, more accurately, his personal pastiche of favorite pasts. It’s all just so. There are no boring or ugly parts. It’s a highlight reel. I have to be in the right mood for it to work on me. Fortunately, the day I went to the Landmark to see it, I was in the right headspace. Went to La Crêperie across the street right after.
I’ve been talking more and more with people about the death of movies. It’s clear that this is the last days of that art form as a reflection of the culture. It can’t compete with Tiktok or videogames or the many other immersive sym environments into which people are disappearing. Sitting an a darkened auditorium with others for a set period of time, with no access to other media, and no option to “interact”, is going the way of opera, painting, and all other outmoded expressions. There will always be an ardent minority who treasure it, but it will never reflect the world in the all-encompassing way it once did.
I thought about this while I sat alone at the Roosevelt, watching Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel. It’s an old-fashioned epic made by an old man. It has something to say about the present moment, in terms of gender issues, but who the hell will notice except for film obsessives who will go see anything the guy who made Blade Runner made? The title’s appropriate. It felt like a last hurrah for a kind of filmmaking that’s a lot closer to Spartacus than Squid Game.
I’ll never stop going to the theater to see movies, but what they’ll show will probably be at a smaller and more personal scale and scope. Something like Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir: Part 2. An intimate examination of an artist’s beginnings. She makes very particular films. Those who see them usually love them. But how many of us are out there? Enough to fund what she wants to do next? I hope so.
The worst thing is going into a theater or book or record with expectations. I’ve enjoyed everything Leos Carax made up until Annette. I guess it’s good to know even genius types are fallible. This movie fails on so many levels I lost track. It’s a stupid, unfunny, embarrassing waste of time and talent. I blame the Sparks brothers. They somehow tricked Carax into making their dream musical. So glad I don’t dream their dreams.
I haven’t loved everything Paul Schrader ever made. But he wrote Taxi Driver and many of his movies are at least interesting failures. Not so with The Card Counter, which is leaden from start to finish. Oscar Isaac has the charisma of a house plant and the movie’s shot like a throwaway reality show. Schrader has done this on purpose for his own perverse, contrarian reasons. It’s some kind of intellectual exercise maybe, but I don’t go to the theater to demonstrate how smart I am, so this thing was dead on arrival to me.
I so wanted to like Jane Campion’s Power of the Dog. She rarely missteps, but Benedict Cumberbatch and the character he plays sunk this one for me. I kept imagining a movie about Kirsten Dunst and her malevolent son. There were glimpses of that story, but then Cumberbatch would reappear and it was back to ACTING. A real bummer.
On the flipside, Kristen Stewart deserved so much better than the feature-length perfume ad Pablo Larraín shot around her in Spencer.
I wonder all the time about these opinions of mine. They’re so deep and certain when they escape my lips or onto the keyboard. But they’re fugitive, unstable. Not so much from pushback or reconsideration, but by the simple passage of time. I forget quickly and easily. The thing I see tonight will help erase what I saw last night. Are they all just diversions? Distractions from the more worthwhile thing I should be doing instead?
People get a kick out of what I say sometimes, I know. But except for the rare times when something I see, read, or hear feeds a picture or a book, what is the point of even sharing my reactions? Newsletters, blogs, essays, social media and rest are built to distribute these takes. Everyone gets their very own custom-built soapbox. Then all our opinions are fed into algorithmic meatgrinders and sold back to us at a premium.
I know all this but still can’t or won’t stop.