My best films of all time.

Had I known I could’ve voted in Sight and Sound’s poll of the greatest films of all time, I would’ve submitted the ballot below. From films like Le Bonheur, Before Sunrise, Summer Hours, and On a Beach Alone At Night it looks like I lean toward films of a deceptive lightness: a surface on which a ripple, eventually appears. Untrammeled by notions of importance, I leaned towards films important to a prospective queer canon. Many directors on the S&S list appear on mine with different entries: La Bonheur for Cléo from 5 to 7, Early Summer for Tokyo Story.

Finally: with its appreciation of newly canonized titles like A Brighter Summer Day, S&S goes a long way towards canonizing Criterion itself.

Continue reading “My best films of all time.”

‘The Fabelmans’ is the rare complicated film about filmmaking

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Assembling a home movie as a favor to his dad, Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) matures into adulthood in minutes. While his sisters clown during a camping vacation, he catches his mom Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and family friend Bennie (Seth Rogen) in the background as they unsuccessfully try to avoid physical contact: a hand brushed aside here, one body leaning into another there. Over and over Sammy works the wheel of his editing machine, studying the footage as if it were the Zapruder film. He had realized before this moment film’s capacity to bend reality — maybe it’s happening here? But no: Mitzi and Bennie’s body language don’t lie.Continue reading “‘The Fabelmans’ is the rare complicated film about filmmaking”

Ranking #54 singles, U.S. edition: 1971-1976

There isn’t a single James Gang album of my acquaintance which hasn’t made a comparable Eagles effort sound like Cat Stevens. It confirms why Frey ‘n’ Henley wanted Joe Walsh; it confirms why Joe Walsh wanted part of the increasingly multi-platinum act; it does not confirm why Walsh stuck around, although his weaknesses for the marching powder are well-known. Hailing from the Walsh-less years, “Must Be Love” is proof that these people knew their shit and were less gross about it. Continue reading “Ranking #54 singles, U.S. edition: 1971-1976”

Tea for one: On aloneness and the pandemic

After the most frantic Thanksgiving weekend in years, after my five-mile morning walk (the novel Hamnet in hand), after coffee and breakfast, I dwell on the difference between introspection and shyness, then change my mind because The New York Times published a story as bothersome as a fly buzzing in a kitchen:Continue reading “Tea for one: On aloneness and the pandemic”

Ranking #65 singles, U.S. edition: 1973-1977

Why Boney M didn’t cross over in America when all kinds of schlock from Alicia Bridges to David Naughton did mystifies me, especially when Frank Farian’s project had grooves as deep as Bellotte-Moroder-Summer; but if “Daddy Cool” leaves you stone-cold the Edgar Winter Band and the Allmans grooved. Continue reading “Ranking #65 singles, U.S. edition: 1973-1977”

Ranking #87 singles, U.S. edition: 1987-1995

Slick Rick’s fey, prissy tone and matter-of-factness about matters sexual were his own; he owed nothing to no one, especially in the mid ’90s when rappers aped shit-hot guitarists in their run of notes. With its tinkling electric keyboard, “Behind Bars” doesn’t celebrate the carceral state but unlike Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” it doesn’t cavil yield its indignities either (its animated video helps). Continue reading “Ranking #87 singles, U.S. edition: 1987-1995”

‘Bones and All’ needs vitamins in its blood

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet are a dish, and the rest of the characters in Bones and All their meal. Self-described “eaters,” they amble through the Upper Midwest of the 1980s, at first sullenly and then idly accepting their destinies as consumers of human flesh. The material requires a David Cronenberg, an Ana Lily Amirpour, even Ari Aster; Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, Call Me By Your Name, Suspiria), skilled at depicting beautiful people fussing over dilemmas that play like operas without the music, is not a director for whom camp is hostile territory. But Bones and All suffers from a torpor incommensurate with the material. Heavy-handed, literal-minded, and unfunny, it lets these actors sulk without clarifying what is at stake. Continue reading “‘Bones and All’ needs vitamins in its blood”

Ranking #63 singles, U.S. edition: 1990-1995

The stink from today’s Hague candidates is worse than last week’s turkey. Hung with rank fruit, “Secret Garden” is Springsteen in his least erotic mode: the whispery-hoary loverboy whose idea of come-ons is to recite the sewn-together of a hundred Old Testament-inspired songs. Fans will remember how more than a year later “Secret Garden” enjoyed a second life soundtracking an equally unconvincing intimate moment between, cough, Renée Zellweger and, ahem, Tom Cruise. Continue reading “Ranking #63 singles, U.S. edition: 1990-1995”

Ranking #83 singles, U.S. edition: 1977-1981

To listen to “Belle” on Thanksgiving is just and necessary. Over a yearning synth line and a guitar plucked as cautiously as if he were starting a dangerous conversation, Al Green commits a sin while purportedly separating himself from temptation: he’s proud about abandoning his lover for the Almighty. That confidence, adduced by the undulations of his first self-production, raises not an eyebrow over here. To take a public stand is to risk looking like the Pharisee bellowing prayers from the front of the Temple. I hope Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant listened to “Belle” when re-imagining “Always On My Mind.”Continue reading “Ranking #83 singles, U.S. edition: 1977-1981”