I’ve been too busy to blog because I’m working on a long project, but what do you know – I haven’t been too busy for twitter threads. Here are some about movies, from the past year.
You Were Never Really Here
Wouldn’t have thought it likely a “contract killer vs human traffickers” film would be so woozily yet masterfully interior, compassionate in lots of directions, and really insightful on the systemic instrumentalisation of some bodies by others. A rich phenomenology of the traumatised body-mind and the ways it copes. Amazing physical performance by Phoenix, shades of O’Rourke’s Wrestler (another sentient knot of scarred, tired, rapidly-superannuating meat).
Trickiest thing: presenting the exploitation of the trafficked girls without salaciousness. Ramsay and Samsonov handle this well. Joe’s trauma, and coping methods, explicitly parallel Nina’s. Chewed up and spat out by the same untouchable men.
Lynne Ramsay’s best. Johnny Greenwood’s too, I think (Joe speaks very little; the expressionistic score keeps the viewer in his head). Maybe Phoenix’s best, as well? Just – really good.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Been thinking about Three Billboards and how it mines police violence against people of colour for laughs and makeuthinks. Because I do think it could’ve been a good film, and yet wasn’t one because of this. This is cognate to the rape joke problem: it’s possible to tell a joke about rape, but it had better be a hell of a clever joke, because a stupid joke will just re-normalise the violence. A good rape joke is hard to write and tell, and much harder to write and tell if you’re a man and new to the issue.
So – white British writer/director Martin McDonagh messed up his handling of race in America. He just did, it’s not that we all failed to appreciate the nuance, as he has implied in responses to his critics. And it saddens me, because I want artists to take risks and write outside their experience. But you can’t blame the audience if your attempt is not good.
Compare, say, Donald Glover’s series Atlanta. When a white cop is violent toward a person of colour in this show it’s a gasping pause between jokes. An unassimilable moment of pure reality that sharpens the edges of all the jokes around it and hurls them straight at your head. It’s good art! Hardly surprising: when the topic of police violence against people of colour is handled by a black artist, the result is better.
It isn’t that white artists can’t approach this topic, but they’ll (of course!) be held to the same high standard. And it’ll likely be harder for them to meet it.
New Hollywood marathon: A play in three acts
Just announcing to no one in particular that I’m sick today, I’m very sorry for myself, and I’m embarking on a New Hollywood marathon now.
New Hollywood was a mistake there are so many turtlenecks and confessions
This couple have turkish rugs on their bathroom floor