Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Picks for the best of the 2013-14 television season, in the form of a Dream Emmy ballot.
Highlights and schedule for the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival.
The final season of "Mad Men" begins with the familiar routines of its damaged characters but they have more tragic resonance than ever.
Understanding consciousness; Inside Llewyn Davis and Mad Men; Canceling the Colbert Show; John Wayne biography; Amtrak's shoddy writer's program.
Sam Fragoso ranks all 22 films he saw at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Sam Fragoso on two films at the Sundance Film Festival.
Different as these two features may be, "Listen Up Philip" and "The Better Angels" both manage to respectfully pay homage without stripping themselves of their own voices.
Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....
Marie writes: Behold a truly inspired idea...Age 8: Eileen's pink creature It started with a simple idea: to make a recognizable comfort toy for her 4 year-old son Dani, based on one of his drawing. His school had asked the children to bring in a toy from home; an emergency measure in the event of a tantrum or crying fit. Fearing he might lose his favorite, Wendy Tsao decided to make Dani a new one. Using a drawing he often made as her guide, she improvised a plush toy snowman. Five years later, Wendy Tsao has her own thriving home-based craft business - Child's Own Studio - in which she transforms the imaginative drawings of children into plush and cloth dolls; each one handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. She receives requests from parents all over the world; there's 500 people on waiting list. Note: kudos to club member Sandy Kahn for submitting the piece.
Marie writes: many simply know her as the girl with the black helmet. Mary Louise Brooks (1906 - 1985), aka Louise Brooks, an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress famous for her bobbed haircut and sex appeal. To cinefiles, she's best remembered for her three starring roles in Pandora's Box (1929) and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) directed by G. W. Pabst, and Prix de Beauté (1930) by Augusto Genina. She starred in 17 silent films (many lost) and later authored a memoir, Lulu in Hollywood."She regards us from the screen as if the screen were not there; she casts away the artifice of film and invites us to play with her." - Roger, from his review of the silent classic Pandor's Box.
A few images from last week's "Mad Men" (or, as I often think of it, "The Peggy Olson Show Featuring Don Draper") to illustrate why composition and framing (aspects of what you might call cinematic architecture) make a world of difference in how a scene works... or doesn't. This episode, "The Rejected," was directed by John Slattery (who, as Roger Sterling, perfectly accents the new office design) and photographed as usual by Christopher Manley (overseen, of course, by series creator Matthew Weiner). Captions appear beneath the frame grabs below:
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is falling apart, and the first shot shows him tethered to a phone cord, chain smoking, backed into a corner, with the ceiling closing in on him (as ceilings often do on "Mad Men"). The sight of Don compulsively puffing, lighting one smoke with the butt of another (he's on the phone with the notorious Lee Garner [Darren Pettie] from Lucky Strike, Sterling Cooper Draper Price's most financially important, and asshole-ish, client) is just the opposite of the way you would expect the well-groomed star of a TV series would be introduced -- especially in 1965. It turns out the subject of the call has to do with both cigarettes and television: the new FCC regulations for advertising cigarettes on TV. There's a delayed punchline a few shots later, when Don explains to Lee that certain camera angles are also prohibited -- like low angles or wide lenses, "anything that makes the smoker appear super-human." Yeah, we've seen that at work.
"Mad Men" has always been about compartmentalization: personal and professional, past and present, city and suburbia, accounts and creative... At first I didn't much like the new, glass and monochrome office spaces, about which silver fox Roger Sterling (John Slattery) remarked: "I feel like with my hair you can't even see me in here." Leave it to director Slattery to make the most out of these spaces in one of the finest episodes of the series (and leading contender for my favorite movie of 2010), "The Rejected" (Season 4, Episode 4). I put together this little wordless video essay about doors, windows, mirrors, transoms, hallways, pillars, screens, reflections... and I'm working on a frame-grab photo essay that gets into more detail about the exquisite direction and composition.
I've deliberately left out huge, important chunks of the episode that don't take place in the office -- but had to include Pete's magnificent shrug (with mirror, bar, decorative screen, and the unseen room down the hall), to contrast his apartment with his office, and the small framed mirror with the wall-sized observation mirror at work. The episode is mostly about Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) going in different directions, discovering new ways to open or close doors between their work and personal lives, contrasted with Don Draper (Jon Hamm), who begins the episode chain-smoking and drinking during a four-way phone call, his office a tangled web of coiled cords. Notice all the cross-sight-lines communication going on (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) -- people watching other people, exchanging glances or sight-unseen, through various frames in their separate compartments -- culminating in Don's seduced-and-ignored secretary Allison (Alexa Alemanni) staring the wrong way through the two-way mirror and looking Don right in the eye, unsettling him by seeing him for who he really is.
Both Pete and Peggy find themselves banging their heads against work surfaces in frustration/resignation, but the episode gives them a moment of grace, through glass doors in the reception area, in a brief, wordless coda I've included almost in its entirety. Peggy is leaving for lunch with some of her new boho friends; Pete is standing around with some suits ("new" clients, including his father-in-law), waiting for Don so they can have a business lunch. (BTW, I couldn't squeeze it in, but the shot of Pete knocking his forehead against the post in his office is followed by a shot of Peggy getting into the elevator -- much like the last shot here -- in which she first meets the LIFE photo editor who introduces her to the Village crowd who come by to get her at the end.) Man, what a terrific movie this is!