How Soon Is Now?

Now Only is just as devastating, and nearly as pristinely austere, as A Crow Looked at Me. Adjectives like "honest" and "earnest" are thrown around an awful lot in discussing art, but Phil Elverum's new records are so rigorously frank they cut right down to the bone. Yet, where last year's felt raw and still very much in medias res, this year's follow-up feels more – for lack of a better word – circumspect. Its title may pointedly refer to the album's ad hoc, impermanent status (more "working through," reflection from a different angle, etc.) but, Elverum seems to suggest, it's not only this music that's ephemeral--everything is, "always so close to not existing at all," as he aptly put it on the last one. Both of these albums have that kind of rare power that makes most other things feel frivolous or inconsequential. Tomorrow night, we're going to see him perform some of these songs, and while I've heard them all numerous times, I still don't know quite what to expect.


When you walk through the garden...

Collateral (why use a title already associated with a well-known movie?) is unexpectedly excellent. Its premise sounds like a cross between The Killing and The Fall, but in execution, it's closer to a miniature, British version of The Wire. At one point in this four-episode BBC2 miniseries, one character says to another: "People don't trust institutions anymore." It's inevitably a bit on the nose, yet, by that point in the show, it also feels earned, as a direct summation of Collateral's David Simonesque central themes. Collateral doesn't just tell us that institutions--governments, political parties, the police, the Church--fail people, but shows in persuasive, vividly realized detail how and why they do so, and what the real-world implications of these failures of service and representation are for the lives of individual people. As in The Wire, what prevents these ideas from ever feeling didactic is pretty good writing and really good acting. Carey Mulligan, always terrific, has probably never been better, but the rest of the show's large ensemble cast is equally strong. The expanding-web-of-interconnections structure that writer-creator David Hare favors is here only minimally schematic and forced, largely because all the characters pulled into his web are so interesting and fully fleshed-out and dynamically played, from the Shadow Cabinet MP at odds with party orthodoxy to the lesbian priest and her young Vietnamese lover to the arrogant, semi-racist MI5 agent swooping in on the local cops' investigation. Right, it's that kind of show, but--trust me, really--it's so much better than it sounds on the page, and at four hours, it doesn't overextend its myriad plot threads or overstay its welcome. My only complaint is that they could've come up with a more distinctive title for a show this good.


You can go with this or you can go with that

Wow, this Rosenbaum review of the Flintstones movie is almost eerily prescient, in several respects; however correct he was in 1994, his remarks (apply them now to the Comic-Book Franchise Reboot Movie of the Month, or, for that matter, to The Shape of Water!) seem even more spot-on in 2018.(And Umberto Eco's quotation about Casablanca is just fantastic.)
Come on, summer


Oscar predictions

For what it's worth (I mostly just hope Dear Basketball wins):

Will win: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should win: Get Out
Should've been nominated: A Quiet Passion; The Florida Project

Will win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should win: Jordan Peele, Get Out or Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Terence Davies, A Quiet Passion; Sean Baker, The Florida Project

Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards...
Should win: Meryl Streep, The Post
Should've been nominated: Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion; Kim Minhee, On the Beach at Night Alone; Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper

Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Should win: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

Will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards...
Should win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Should've been nominated: Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name