Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Nothing about Abominable is even mildly surprising (unless it’s that an English-language movie made by American creators and mostly at an American animation studio should be set in China and have a female protagonist, and neither of these facts are even briefly commented upon), which is kind of a great thing. It doesn’t feel like […]

I have said before and will, I am entirely sure, have reason to say it again: nothing in the whole world of filmmaking in the 2010s interests me as much as the Chinese film industry’s concerted efforts to establish itself as an internationally competitive alternative to Hollywood, concurrent with the swift rise of that country’s […]

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. The week just ended: Keanu Reeves has spent some 20 years now as a sometimes hand-to-hand combat god, as John Wick: […]

It is well to avoid making absolute statements, especially absolute statements about weirdly idiosyncratic and fundamentally unquantifiable things, but I’m feeling feisty. So here goes: I think it’s entirely likely that the most interesting and important thing happening to cinema anywhere in the world right now is the Chinese film industry’s attempts – largely successful […]

So here’s the thing: The Meg is actually able to concoct a reason for Jason Statham to get into hand-to-hand combat with a 75-foot shark. That is, in a sense, the whole of what the film needs to do, and I unhesitatingly admire it for this, and even love it for this, even though I’m […]

The controversy is dead, dead, dead, and far be it from me to bring it up at this late, but I think the pre-release outrage in the United States over The Great Wall is telling. Matt Damon in a historical action movie set in 11th Century China? Must be a pandering White Savior gesture, went […]

Alright, kiddies, it’s time for some box office numbers: 1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: $936,662,22 (winter 2015-2016) 2. Avatar: $749,766,139 (winter 2009-2010) 3. Wolf Warrior II: $679,495,519 (as of 13 August, 2017) What we have there are the three largest single-territory grosses in the history of worldwide box office. The first two of those […]

Rock Dog is a low-down, no-damn-good movie. But terribly fascinating anyway, if more in theory than actuality. The film exists as a hoped-for evolutionary link between the second- and third-largest film markets in the world;* it has been 100% financed by Chinese production companies but 100% created by U.S. artists at a U.S. studio. The […]

Mountains May Depart is not the first film to completely lose the thread as it approaches the ending, of course. But it’s extra-awfully disappointing that it does so, because before that happens, it puts up a really impressive case for being one of the very best movies released in the United States in 2016. The […]

Here’s an object lesson in what cultural hegemony looks like, from the perspective of the hegemon. So at this point in history, China is the second-largest market for American films after the United States itself, and several of the highest-grossing films in the history of the Chinese box office are American studio blockbusters: Furious 7, […]

There’s a notion going around that The Assassin is a hard movie to parse out at the narrative level. This is so. I have now seen The Assassin three times, in fact, and if you were to tell me that I had to clarify what every scene contributed to the overall narrative at each point, […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/11 & 10/13 & 10/17World premiere: 12 February, 2014, Berlin International Film Festival It might have been filmed in color; it might have been filmed in China; it might have been filmed decades after of the essential cultural context of the post-WWII America; but other than those little things, Black Coal, Thin […]