Friday, June 16, 2023


6/16/23 I watched Kelly Reichardt's Showing Up.  Reichardt's last two features Certain Women and First Cow stand among my favorite films of the last decade.  Her latest is just as artistically impressive as the previous two features even if emotionally I never quite connected to the characters as much.  It feels like a work where Reichardt is unusually self-questioning, trying to find her way from here.

9/15/23 I watched Hong Sang-soo's In Water.  Cinema's great simplifier stays true to his world and creates another deceptively easy, moving film.

10/7/23 I watched Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Evil Does Not Exist.  Yet another powerful outing in Hamaguchi's body of work.  With more genre elements than his previous two films, it still manages to pack a punch in what it says about our world and the ways to still use cinema in fresh ways to provide commentary on it.  

10/7/23 I watched Victor Erice's Close Your Eyes.  Erice grapples with his place in cinema and cinema's place in the world.  It's a shame that we have so few of his works since there is such a depth of feeling and an epic desire to give us clarity that only a handful of filmmakers today can claim.  

10/8/23 I watched Alice Rohrwacher's La Chimera.  A film that perhaps is not as striking at first glance as Happy as Lazzaro.  But I found it had much to say about cinema and that it felt quite akin to Fellini's early work and to Italy's cinematic tradition.

10/8/23 I watched Justine Triet's Anatomy of a Fall.  My favorite of the Triet films I have seen thus far.  It does what I always wanted to pursue in my work, merging French naturalism with strong plot and mystery elements.  

10/9/23 I watched Frederick Wiseman's Menus Plaisirs - Les Troisgros.  In one sense, you could say Wiseman is treading familiar ground in a familiar way, which means one of the most masterful observers the cinema has produced is observing the world in his masterful way once again.  But I saw new stylistic elements here, whether it was Wiseman's quick cutting and multiple close ups as the intensity ramped up when Michel cooks kidneys or the handheld camera that previously was far less prevalent and noticeable in Wiseman's work.  Another full on immersion from Wiseman that says a lot about food, high-end restauarants but most important about our people and our world.    

10/25/23 I watched Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon.  Aside from never being fully felt for me, I didn't care too much about anyone on screen or what was happening, I was most disappointed by Scorsese's use of score and music.  It all felt derivative of either Young's work with Jarmusch or Greenwood with Anderson, ultimately suffocating the events on screen rather than increasing their impact.  

11/6/23 I watched Ben Shapiro and Sam Pollard's Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes.  Thorough portrait of a fascinating figure of the 20th century.  Highly recommended for any fan of jazz.

12/30/23 I watched Sean Durkin's The Iron Claw. Durkin's air tight direction and surface level coverage of the Von Erich family left me emotionally cold and then spent when it was finally over.  

1/3/24 I watched Michael Mann's Ferrari.  I went into Mann's latest film, skeptical to say the least.  Although I taught a college course on him, I really had not been fully moved by one of his films since The Insider (24 years ago!) and he hadn't made a film since Blackhat (8 years ago!)

All that to say, I was completely unprepared for the experience of Ferrari.  First off, nothing in Mann's body of work resembles it in look.  Gone is the cool, heavily stylized photography of the Thief-Ali period.  Gone is the self-conscious, digital experimentation of the Collateral-Blackhat period.  Ferrari finds Mann working in a much more naturalistic register, not only in the way the film is shot and production designed but also in the framing (again, gone are the myriad of jump cuts and extreme close-ups).     

Mann has always been incredibly precise in his location scouting, his character research, his attention to detail.  But what has always seemed like an almost unparalleled approach in truth seeking in terms of directorial preparation has always been expressed in a much more heightened and mannered execution.  For the first time the feel of how Mann approaches his work is echoed by what comes out the other end.

There has a been a knock on Mann his entire career about his female characters.  Their lack of dimension.  His lack of attention to him.  Penelope Cruz's Laura is his strongest female character to date and one any woman's director would be proud to claim as their own.

Certain works by certain artists force an entire reconsideration of an artist's career.  With Ferrari, Mann reminds us that at his heights he is every bit as effective as Scorsese, Coppola or any other filmmaker that has emerged since the end of classic Hollywood.  But, unlike his aforementioned peers, with Ferrari, Mann still seems to be growing at the tail end of his career, reaching heights that he's been chasing since the very beginning.      

2/6/24 I watched Nelson George's Thriller 40.  Certainly deepens your appreciation for MJ's drive and incredible talents.

2/12/24 I watched Jean-Luc Godard's Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: "Phony Wars".  Hard to follow like most of Godard but the way Godard's voice sounds like the end has come and the way he drops sound out completely from time to time evokes death as viscerally as anything I have seen in film.

6/8/24 I watched Aki Kaurismaki's Fallen Leaves.  I have enjoyed every Kaurismaki film I have seen to date, although this was probably only the third or fourth I have seen.  It felt like a master director in full control of his very unique yet very effective style.