Darren H

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  1. Even as I wrote that, I knew I was skipping some steps in my proof! The short answer, though, is that we're talking about artistic expression here. The form a piece of art takes is at least as important as its content (to me, it's more important, actually), so if I'm seeking wisdom through an experience of art, much of it will be discovered in the creativity of individual decisions made by the artist -- in this case, where to put the camera, the duration between cuts, the music that plays over the images, and on and on.
  2. I've described MBTS a few times on social media as a middle-aged man's banal daydream, which is a bit overwrought, too, but it gets at something I haven't seen in other critiques of the film. First, a confession: I'm 44, I've been married for 20 years, I have two kids and a big mortgage, and I'm midway through a career that no longer gives me much personal satisfaction. In other words, I'm right in the midlife-crisis sweetspot, and more often than I care to admit I find myself fantasizing about escaping it all. (Don't worry, friends, I'm fine, my marriage is fine, my job is fine, everything is fine.) I've never entertained the exact scenario that we see in MBTS, but the film felt familiar to me. I could too easily imagine Lonergan shuffling down the street, indulging in this daydream (I passed him on the sidewalk soon after I saw the film and he looked exactly as annoyed with the world as his character). That in and of itself is not a condemnation of the film. It's the banality of the work that left me wanting. I've never been a member of #TeamLonergan, but this one in particular struck me as a failure of imagination. For someone who is praised for his writing, Lonergan, I think, copped out by making Lee so inarticulate. I'm not saying it was an inaccurate portrayal of a certain kind of self-punishing PTSD behavior or that great films can't be made with quiet, inarticulate characters (most of my favorites do, in fact); I'm saying that Lonergan is, by his own admission, a not particularly experienced or gifted filmmaker, from a formal perspective, and so the wisdom of the piece must be generated elsewhere -- the scenario, the writing, the performances, all of which were . . . fine. For all the flack American Beauty gets these days, I think these two films have much in common. By comparison, I just finished watching Horace & Pete, which is also a middle-aged man (Horace and his creator, Louis C.K.) reckoning with family, the life he's made for himself, and the future, and I found it all deliriously imaginative. Scene after scene did things I couldn't have predicted. By the end, I was in awe of CK's creativity, which goes hand in hand with wisdom and insight.
  3. For what it's worth, here are my favorites of 2016, broken into different release categories. I'm really proud of the fact that six of my top ten US releases screened (or will screen) at my microcinema in Knoxville, and if all goes as planned at least four of the yet-to-be-released films will screen there this spring. Favorite New Films Released in America 1. Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin, 2015) 2. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016) 3. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015) 4. Rak ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendor, Apitchatpong Weerasethkul, 2015) 5. L'ombre des femmes (In the Shadow of Women, Philippe Garrel, 2015) 6. Shan he gu ren (Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhang-ke, 2015) 7. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2015) 8. The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer, 2015) 9. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2015) 10. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016) Favorite New Films Yet to be Released in America 1. AS WITHOUT SO WITHIN (Manuela De Laborde, 2016) 2. Ears, Nose and Throat (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2016) 3. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016) 4. The Lost City of Z (James Gray, 2016) 5. Die Geträumten (The Dreamed Ones, Ruth Beckermann, 2016) 6. Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce, 2015) 7. La fille inconnue (The Unknown Girl, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2016) 8. Der traumhafte Weg (The Dreamed Path, Angela Schanelec, 2016) 9. Ma Loute (Slack Bay, Bruno Dumont, 2016) 10. Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu, 2016) Favorite New Films I Saw for the First Time in 2016 1. AS WITHOUT SO WITHIN (Manuela De Laborde, 2016) 2. Ears, Nose and Throat (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2016) 3. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016) 4. Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin, 2015) 5. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016) 6. The Lost City of Z (James Gray, 2016) 7. Die Geträumten (The Dreamed Ones, Ruth Beckermann, 2016) 8. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2015) 9. Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce, 2015) 10. La fille inconnue (The Unknown Girl, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2016)
  4. Just a head's up for any of you who are still cramming 2016 new releases. I don't watch as many documentaries as some of you do, but I always take notice when Eric Hynes recommends one. He included Vitaliy Manskiy's Under the Sun on his Indiewire Top 10, so I watched it last night (it's streaming on Netflix) and really enjoyed it. Manskiy is a Ukranian filmmaker who was granted permission to make a film in North Korea, but as we're told in an opening scroll, government authorities had total control of the script, monitored every minute of the shoot, and signed off on all of the footage. Manskiy then recut it all, including a lot of "real life" footage that was captured before and after each take. It's brilliant, conceptually -- so much so that I worried the film itself might be redundant. But it's an always-compelling and complex document of totalitarianism. This trailer is terrible but it'll give you a sense of the visual style.
  5. Two days later, I'm beginning to think Moonlight is my favorite film of 2016. Can't wait to see it again to see how it holds up.
  6. I watched this just last week and really liked it. Guy Lodge is a great writer. His review nails my feelings about the film.
  7. I wonder how many copies of FILM ART have been sold? It's been taught in thousands of courses a year for nearly four decades.
  8. The A&F old-timers will probably appreciate this better than most people in my life. I'm pretty pleased with this photo! The interview will be published to coincide with the US release early next year.
  9. Ken wrote: I thought of your comments, Ken, when I read this quote from Luc in the press notes:
  10. The Sweet Hereafter is a great suggestion.
  11. At the risk of shifting the discussion away from film . . . As a survivor of trauma (two of my close family members were murdered), the idea of "resiliency" makes me nervous. There's tremendous pressure to be resilient -- certainly to appear resilient -- in the wake of a traumatic experience. But resilience isn't a virtue. It's necessary at times, but performing (for lack of a better word) resiliency is exhausting and can cause a lot of shame and inner turmoil. I don't know how often Andrew checks into the forum these days, but I'd be curious to hear his thoughts.
  12. Trauma and resiliency is quite a topic. Trauma is often intertwined with grief and mourning but it's also distinct in that it's scarring and guilt-causing in life-changing ways. I like Joel's suggestion of the Dardenne brothers' films. I'm rewatching them right now and wonder if The Son and Lorna's Silence might be even better texts. The Wire has two dozen storylines that deal with trauma. One of my favorite John Ford scenes is when Henry Fonda returns from a battle in Drums Along the Mohawk. We don't see the traumatic event but it's written on his face. Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Assassin only opened up to me on a second viewing when I saw the lead character as a survivor of trauma.
  13. I really like this film and am eager to see what Holmer does next. I hadn't seen it until our screening at The Public Cinema in August, and I knew I was going to like it a few minutes in, when, in addition to some great boxing and dancing scenes, I noticed a lot of blue and purple in the wardrobe and set design. That sounds odd, I know, but it confirmed my suspicion that Holmer and her DP spent a lot of time watching Claire Denis and Agnes Godard films. I described The Fits afterwards as a Denis remake of Bruno Dumont's The Life of Jesus! I'm not on the jury, but if I were you'd have my strong second!
  14. I'll add that the one through-line I can find in many of my TIFF favorites is expert, classical filmmaking. (I had a long conversation with my friend Girish a few days ago about this, and he was adamant that I use the word "classical" instead of "conventional.") Aquarius was such a thrill to watch, but I can't point to a single image or sequence that made me gasp. Same with Daguerrotype. Likewise, the Dardennes don't do anything especially new or surprising, but each cut is so precise and efficient, like a poem that's been trimmed of everything non-essential. At this stage of my life as a cinephile, that's become one of my favorite pleasures.
  15. Sorry we didn't have time to chat, Andrew. I'm glad to hear you had a great fest. I've ranked the TIFF features I've seen so far on Letterboxd, and I can't quite make sense of the results. Everyone seems to agree that The Unknown Girl is the Dardennes' worst film, but it was my favorite since The Son. I generally don't like Terence Davies, but I loved A Quiet Passion. The Daguerrotype totally worked for me, despite its obvious faults. And I ranked thirteen films ahead of the consensus film of the year, Toni Erdmann. On average it was a very strong year, but I wish I'd come away from TIFF with one feature that I loved unconditionally. Bonello's Nocturama is as close as I came. The actual highlight for me was in the Wavelengths shorts program, a 25-minute piece called As Without So Within, by Manuela De Laborde. Kevin Everson's short, Ear, Nose and Throat, also wrecked me for the rest of the day.