Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
A remarkable tale of immigrant success, wrapped around a crime story.
"David Lowery ('Ain't Them Bodies Saints') Talks Tsai Ming-liang's 'Stray Dogs'": An excellent analysis of the recently released masterwork published at The Talkhouse.
“I imagine every young filmmaker has that one ‘aha!’ moment with another director’s work; that marvelous instance when whatever protozoan confluence of ideals and aesthetics has been swirling in one’s head finds itself all at once in precise, crystalline realization, right there on the screen, finishing your sentences and starting new ones. A particular work, or body thereof, presents itself to you, a lighthouse amidst the crashing waves, and suddenly everything about this art form clicks into place in a way that seems both universal and entirely personal. I had that moment with Tsai Ming-liang when I discovered him while working my way through the pan-Asian films of the early aughts — works by Lee Chang-dong and Hong Sang-soo, from South Korea, Hou Hsiao-Hsien from Taiwan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand, and Tsai, a Taiwan-based Malaysian. More so than Tarksovky or Tarr, these filmmakers showed me how time and incident might function together in cinema; how the latter’s effect could be attenuated so precisely by the former, and how the rules of form might sustain both to marvelous effect. I found that my hitherto painfully short attention span and my inability to follow complex dialogue were cured by these directors. Tsai, in particular, with his distended comic timing and ability to turn unendurably mundane moments into punchlines, felt revelatory. Static shots that last close to 10 minutes in which seemingly nothing happens? This was the cinema I’d been looking for!”
"It's Time to Ditch the Low Box Office Expectations for Movies With Black Stars": Slate's Aisha Harris discusses the response to the financial success of the poorly reviewed thriller "No Good Deed."
“‘No Good Deed,’ the home invasion thriller starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, opened in first place at the box office this past weekend with $24.5 million. The movie’s top spot seems to have surprised many who follow such things: Idris Elba, beloved as he is by fans of ‘The Wire’ and ‘Luther,’ is not known as a box office draw, and last week ‘No Good Deed’’s sole preview screenings were mysteriously canceled at the last minute. (The dubious excuse: The marketing team didn’t want a plot twist to be revealed ahead of the opening.) But one aspect of the film that shouldn’t have made folks count ‘No Good Deed’ out of the running for box office glory? Its cast of black stars. In fact, it is the latest in a string of movies led by black actors that have ‘overperformed’ at the box office, any number of which should have put to rest the still-prevailing notion that films with all or primarily black casts don’t do well at the box office.”
“In my most recent film, ‘The Skeleton Twins,’ Bill Hader plays Milo, a gay man whose life isn't going the way he wants it to. Milo is the co-lead of the movie alongside his twin sister, Maggie, played by Kristen Wiig. I am an openly gay director, and the film has an epic lip-synch scene set to Starship's '80s ballad ‘Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now,’ which was the love song from the movie ‘Mannequin.’ By all accounts, my film is a ‘gay’ movie. And yet when I introduced the film at L.A.'s Outfest this year, I found myself musing on the definition of a ‘gay’ film, because I actually wasn't sure how my film fit into the equation. I knew I owed a debt of gratitude to the pioneering LGBT filmmakers who came before me, folks like Almodóvar and Gus van Sant, but I wondered openly, How does one define a ‘gay’ film in 2014? By its sensibility? Target audience? The presence of a gay character? The presence of Parker Posey? Does the term even have any relevance in 2014? To try to answer these questions, I thought back on my formative movie years.”
"David Lynch Thinks No One Will Ever Agree on What 'Eraserhead' is About": Vulture's Bilge Ebiri interviews the iconic director about his 1977 masterpiece now on Criterion.
“Filmmaking is often described as a series of ‘happy accidents.’ What was the happiest happy accident of the production of ‘Eraserhead?’ [Lynch:] ‘I’ve never heard cinema described that way, but I describe much of the artistic process as happy accidents. It can be so beautiful to bring ideas springing forward. I just say you should stay on your toes and be aware of everything all the way through the process. Even if you already have a script, things can happen that open up to new ideas that you’ll just be so thankful for. On ‘Eraserhead,’ in the beginning, there was no Lady in the Radiator. The Lady in the Radiator came along first as a drawing, and then she got born more and more, maybe after five or six months of shooting.’”
"The 10 Worst Movies Shown on 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000'": Paste Magazine's Chris Morgan ranks what he believes to be the most irresistibly abysmal topics of satire on the brilliant TV series.
“The success of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ stemmed largely from the comedic acumen of the writers and performers. They came up with the smart jokes, clever, esoteric pop culture references, and the funny sketches scattered throughout episodes. However, we cannot overlook another key piece of the puzzle—the movies. Were it not for these cinematic duds, ‘MST3K’ would have just consisted of a guy and some robots up in a spaceship twiddling their thumbs. Throughout the show’s run, the crew of the Satellite of Love went through a litany of celluloid disasters. Some were so bad, they were good. Others were so bad, they were, well, bad. And some-the worst—boggled the mind and defied logic. Here are the worst of the worst, the most egregious insults to filmmaking (so bad, we didn’t even rank them) that ever found their way into the not too distant future.”
"The Brave Open Letter Graham Greene Wrote Defending Charlie Chaplin from McCarthy" republished in honor of The New Republic's 100th anniversary.
"Kenneth Anger: Film as Magical Ritual" is a must-see German documentary (with English subtitles) from 1970 recently unearthed at Dangerous Minds.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at the entire "Alien" franchise, and a reappraisal of its unloved installments.
A tribute to the late Powers Boothe.