Monday

Five Things


that I really like right now:

01. Thank U, Next the album, esp. "Fake Smile," "Bad Idea," and "Break up with Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" The instant coronation of this one as her best record to date has real merit to it. Song for song, it's stronger than Sweetener, and while I'm still partial to Dangerous Woman, the new one may pass it, too, with just a few more listens. She's terrific, and is only getting better, smarter, and more prudent in her (musical) choices.

02. The National Basketball Association, esp. the Eastern Conference match-ups post-trade deadline Well, obviously.

03. Fake or Fortune?, esp. the Van Dyck, "Mystery Old Master," Rembrandt, and Delacroix episodes I'm thoroughly addicted to this show, which is essentially about art-historical research being exciting, which it is, or can be, when the brilliant Bendor Grosvenor is involved.

04. At Eternity's Gate, esp. Willem Dafoe and Mads Mikkelsen's performancs, Benoît Delhomme's cinematography, and Tatiana Lisovskaya's score It's imperfect, yet, upon reflection, mostly in ways that make it more appealingly strange and beguiling; probably 2018's most underrated film.

05. The "Woy-yoy-yoy" song from Cold War, esp. the full choral version The movie itself is good, and often really good, but only great during its stunning musical scenes. (Not sure what to make of that ending...)

Wednesday

Performances: Retractatio


I've seen so many more terrific performances since posting this list that I've decided to update, and double, it. Insofar as I care about the Oscars, I'm decidedly bummed that Ethan Hawke was snubbed, but pleasantly surprised that Willem Dafoe made it in, for one of the best performances of his career (possibly the best). At Eternity's Gate itself –– beautiful and indelible but marked by some deeply odd and questionable technical choices –– warrants more careful consideration (I just finally saw it) and extended discussion, which I'll get around to soon...

Saturday

Weill




Tuesday

The Dumb Resistance


Vice is a bad movie about a very bad person. Because Adam McKay's film is sharply critical of its subject does not make it a good movie. It is obvious, clumsy, admittedly sporadically entertaining, but most of all, bizarrely incongruous, its many moveable parts shoehorned into a film that as a whole is barely coherent. On the one hand, its dramatic scenes feel like the stuff of a highly conventional, super-reductive biopic, a key-moments collection of Cheney's life and career, with every major decision or event compressed into the fewest number of synoptic lines possible before jumping to the next such moment. On the other hand, this series of dramatic scenes–––arranged elliptically so as to ostensibly explain who Cheney is, or what really motivates him, or whatever––are framed by a sub-Michael Moore narration–commentary that is more heavy-handed and condescending than your average left-wing conspiracy-theory amateur doc posted to YouTube; the choice to have Landry from Friday Night Lights break the fourth wall in delivering this narration was utterly ill-considered, and the scene where it's finally revealed who this narrator is in relation to Cheney's story is downright cringeworthy--arguably the dumbest movie-moment of the year if not for the scene with Alfred Molina as a waiter, which is somehow even dumber. Whatever dramatic impact Vice might have otherwise made is thoroughly undermined by McKay's lame stylistic choices.

This is a bit of a shame because some of the film's performances are quite strong, at least as uncanny impressions or amusing takes on well-known people. Christian Bale is eerily dead-on in the same way as Gary Oldman's Churchill, Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher, and Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles. Amy Adams is also good, if basically one-dimensional (though, curiously, her performance is at times more reminiscent of Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton than it is of Lynne Cheney). Steve Carrell's performance works because he hones in on a particular, distinctive aspect of Donald Rumsfeld––his impish petulance––and essentially plays him like a smarter, more evil (if no more socially adept) Michael Scott. Tyler Perry's Colin Powell and LisaGay Hamilton's Condoleeza Rice are fun, one-note touches. Sam Rockwell's George W. Bush, however, is shitty and lazy, impression-acting at its worst that dampens the scenes he shares with Bale, Carrell, et al.

As a piece of pop-polemic, Vice shares a certain cultural space with BlackKklansman, my pick for 2018's best movie. Both films blur the line between past and present, and combine fast-paced popcorn entertainment with explicit political critique. Yet, the qualitative difference between these two films could not be more extreme. It's not just the difference between a great filmmaker and a mediocre one, though that's part of it. It's that Spike Lee earns his film's incendiary coda and its presentist nods along the way with rich, sensitive storytelling; interludes like the Birth of a Nation sequence deepen, rather than distract from, the main drama. A pleasurable movie narrative ultimately gives way to profound despair and anger, and both feel wholly warranted. By contrast, Vice aims squarely to shoot fish in a barrel, and in some respects it fails even at that. When it attempts something like profundity, it feels like a ridiculous self-parody of the twenty-first-century American left.

Sunday

Secrets stolen from deep inside

Damn! Even better than "Pinot Noir" and "Boobs in California," though perhaps not the one-man geisha opera.
2018: Movies


Terrible year for the world; terrific year for movies, which is some small consolation. Though we needn't overextend the supposed correlation of bad times/good art, the year's best film might've merely been one among many very good ones if not for its galvanizing present-day coda. Of course, I'd trade a great movie for an inferior one together with less harrowing current circumstances, and I'm sure Spike Lee would too, but here we are. Radical resistance art par excellence –– or torridly making out with Amanda Seyfried –– might be all we've got as things stand.

01. BlacKkKlansman (Lee)
02. Zama (Martel)
03. First Reformed (Schrader)
04. Transit (Petzold)
05. Burning (Lee)
06. Roma (Cuarón)
07. Hereditary (Aster)
08. The Favourite (Lanthimos)
09. Microhabitat (Jeon)
10. Ash Is Purest White (Jia)

11. Lush Reeds (Yang)
12. The Image Book (Godard)
13. The Death of Stalin (Ianucci)
14. Support the Girls (Bujalski)
15. Shoplifters (Koreeda)
16. The Third Murder (Koreeda)
17. On Happiness Road (Sung)
18. Mirai (Hosoda)
19. Three Faces (Panahi)
20. Mid90s (Hill)

21. If Beale Street Could Talk (Jenkins)
22. Fausto (Bussmann)
23. Edge of the Knife (Edenshaw/Haig-Brown)
24. Hold the Dark (Saulnier)
25. Grass (Hong)
26. Cam (Goldhaber)
27. Oh Lucy! (Hirayanagi)
28. The Darling (Lee)
29. You Were Never Really Here (Ramsay)
30. Paddington 2 (King)

31. Spider-Man: Into Spider-verse (Persichetti/Ramsey/Rothman)
32. A Land Imagined (Yeow)
33. Leave No Trace (Granik)
34. The Museum of Forgotten Triumphs (Bodružić)
35. Father to Son (Hsiao)
36. Non-Fiction (Assayas)
37. Sorry to Bother You (Riley)
38. May the Devil Take You (Tjahjanto)
39. Unsane (Soderbergh)
40. Cargo (Howling/Ramke)

41. Verónica (Plaza)
42. Calibre (Palmer)
43. Diane (Jones)
44. Crazy Rich Asians (Chu)
45. Searching (Chaganty)
46. A Quiet Place (Krasinski)
47. Paul, Apostle of Christ (Hyatt)
48. Ralph Breaks the Internet (Moore/Johnston)
49. The Incredibles 2 (Bird)
50. The Endless (Benson/Moorhead)

Tuesday

Holiday complaints dept.


The Raptors, with a league-best record and one of the top five players in the league, not getting a Xmas-day game this year is ridiculous and just plain poor decision-making. Instead, we get the shitty Knicks sans Porzingis getting (inevitably) obliterated by Milwaukee, ugh. Raptors–Bucks (Kawhi vs. Giannis!) would've made for an infinitely superior game for anyone who cares about great basketball, including discerning New Yorkers. Or, for narrative: Raptors at Spurs as a much better late-slot match-up than Portland–Utah––both small-market teams with no legitimate superstar save Dame; Donovan Mitchell's not quite there yet, and as much as I like and respect Rudy Gobert, I strongly doubt that many kids outside Utah, and maybe northern France, unwrapped Gobert jerseys this morning.

Sunday

2018: Music


ALBUMS
01. Mount Eerie, Now Only
02. Robyn, Honey
03. Prince, Piano & a Microphone 1983
04. Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
05. The Carters, Everything Is Love
06. Ariana Grande, Sweetener
07. Soccer Mommy, Clean
08. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
09. Mitski, Be the Cowboy
10. Lykke Li, so sad, so sexy

SINGLES
01. Drake, "Nice for What"
02. Soccer Mommy, "Your Dog"
03. The Carters, "Apeshit"
04. Ariana Grande, "Thank U, Next"
05. Robyn, "Missing U"
06. Childish Gambino, "This Is America"
07. Drake, "God's Plan"
08. Travis Scott, "Sicko Mode"
09. Cardi B, "I Like It"
10. Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson, "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart"

Monday

Your car's a dump and you're broke

(Does Borders still exist?)
2018: 50 Performances


There are still some ostensibly key things I haven't seen yet, so I'm holding off on a year-end films list, but here's this for now; subject to revision, but really solid as is. (updated Jan. 30)

01. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
02. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate
03. Jeffrey Wright, Hold the Dark
04. Regina Hall, Support the Girls
05. Mary Kay Place, Diane
06. Zhao Tao, Ash Is Purest White
07. Toni Collette, Hereditary
08. Steven Yeun, Burning
09. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
10. Michael Jq Huang, Father to Son
11. Olivia Colman, The Favourite
12. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
13. Emma Stone, The Favourite
14. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
15. Sakura Ando, Shoplifters
16. Jeon Jong-seo, Burning
17. Madeline Brewer, Cam
18. John Cho, Searching
19. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
20. Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here
21. Koji Yakusho, The Third Murder
22. Marina de Tavira, Roma
23. Juliette Binoche, Non-Fiction
24. Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace
25. Topher Grace, BlackKklansman
26. Hugh Grant, Paddington 2
27. Cedric Kyles, First Reformed
28. Amanda Seyfried, First Reformed
29. James Faulkner, Paul, Apostle of Christ
30. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
31. Steve Buscemi, The Death of Stalin
32. Na-kel Smith, Mid90s
33. Martin Freeman, Cargo
34. Kim Min-hee, Grass
35. Bryan Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk
36. Ben Foster, Leave No Trace
37. Kirin Kiki, Shoplifters
38. Esom, Microhabitat
39. Jang Jieun, The Darling
40. Daniel Giménez Cacho, Zama
41. Jay Pharoah, Unsane
42. Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
43. Josh Hartnett, Oh Lucy!
44. Gabriel Byrne, Hereditary
45. John David Washington, BlakKklansman
46. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Annihilation
47. Armie Hammer, Sorry to Bother You
48. Christian Bale, Vice
49. Steve Carrell, Vice
50. John Malkovich, Bird Box

Wednesday

CABIN BOY!

Monday

This is eerily ominous –– and in itself just plain awful news.

Sunday

At long last...


The real Wellesian event of the year is on Criterion, not Netflix.

(Now, please – if anyone reading this has any sway – put out beautiful Blu-rays of Beau Travail and The House of Mirth!)

Wednesday

He's much older now with hat on drinking wine


Great piece, by Lindsay Zoladz, on what is probably the greatest pop album of all-time; and another terrific one, by Steven Hyden, on the deeply idiosyncratic career that followed said greatest album.

Sunday

Words Matter


These are extremely important points that must be firmly asserted, ad infinitum if necessary (at present, it's obviously, urgently necessary), and more world leaders should follow Macron's lead in explicitly rejecting the casual use of "nationalism" as an innocent, interchangeable synonym for "patriotism." It is not; even without "white" as a prefix, nationalism is an ideology (not a mere sentiment, like patriotism) that directly motivated many of the most horrific acts of the past century. It is true that the meaning of some terms blur over time: most people today probably cannot explain the difference between a "democracy" and a "republic," there is no real correspondence between these two ancient political forms and the present-day Democratic and Republican parties, and the word "liberal" carries totally different connotations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, respectively. But nationalism –– like fascism, communism, and imperialism –– still always refers, in essence, to something very specific, and deeply sinister, even if its manifestations have varied across time and space.

Thursday

"It's like they're doing the right thing. It's like they're doing the right things with all the instruments."

Tuesday

She still has a flame-gun (for the cute ones)


Not sure yet what I think of Wanderer (still sorting that out), but why not a Cat Power top twenty in the meantime? Her run from '95–2003 was amazing, and those records hold up beautifully; what's come since then is more hit or miss...

01. "Rockets"
02. "Nude as the News"
03. "Say"
04. "Fool"
05. "Ice Water"
06. "Still in Love"
07. "No Sense"
08. "Cross Bones Style"
09. "I Don't Blame You"
10. "I Found a Reason"
11. "Top Expert"
12. "Names"
13. "Enough"
14. "Maybe Not"
15. "Satisfaction"
16. "Great Expectations"
17. "American Flag"
18. "Colors and the Kids"
19. "Lived in Bars"
20. "Wonderwall"

Monday

VIFF: Best of the Fest


Josh

01. Transit
02. Burning
03. Microhabitat
04. Ash Is Purest White
05. Lush Reeds
06. The Image Book
07. Fausto
08. Three Faces
09. Edge of the Knife
10. Grass / The Darling

Performances
01. Mary Kay Place, Diane
02. Zhao Tao, Ash Is Purest White
03. Michael Jq Huang, Father to Son

Teresa

01. Ash Is Purest White
02. Shoplifters
03. Transit
04. Mirai
05. Lush Reeds

also reviewed:
*Edge of the Knife
*The Sisters Brothers
*Wangdrak's Rain Boots
*The House That Jack Built
*The Darling
*No. 1 Chung Ying Street