Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

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 […]

Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin is in some ways a harsh departure for the filmmaker, one of the reigning masters of Chinese cinema; the quiet gracefulness of his films best-known in the English-speaking world has been replaced by anger and violence, a lingering despair clinging to the movie like a bramble. But at the […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/19 & 10/21World premiere: 29 September, 2012, CNEX Documentary Film Festival It’s not the exact literal first thing that happens in Mothers, but it’s awfully early on that director Xu Hui-jing, in voice-over, explains his particular relationship to China’s “One Child” population control policy: he was the second child born to his […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/11 & 10/13 & 10/16World premiere: 23 August, 2013, Montréal World Film Festival The Blinding Sunlight, the directorial debut of Chinese filmmaker Yu Liu, wastes no time in setting up its aesthetics and its themes alike: the opening shot is in the backseat of a cramped vehicle looking through the windshield (soon […]

The most interesting fact about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is that its producer, Wendi Murdoch, is the wife of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, and that he exercised his, let us politely call it his “influence” over Fox Searchlight to make sure the film got a U.S. release. I do not claim that this […]

One would assume that an international film star with the appeal and cult of Jackie Chan would not have much if any trouble getting his way; and yet the path leading to Little Big Soldier, which premiered in Asia in the winter of 2010 and has yet to secure a proper release across most of […]

And now the latest in my irregular series: Man, Communist Governments Hate Good Movies. For a very brief span of time following the end of World War II, China enjoyed a cinematic golden age; like so many countries that got heavily dicked-over by the biggest combatants (and it’s arguable, I think, that China’s decade of […]

A slightly embarrassing confession: despite his reputation as one of the pre-eminent Chinese filmmakers of the current century, I’ve had some difficulty in the past “getting” the work of Jia Zhang-Ke, at least those films I’ve seen. To my eyes, his big breakthrough, 2000’s Platform, is an exceptionally over-praised work of no particular merit, while […]

The advertisements for 2007’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner, Tuya’s Marriage – and is there anything so ubiquitous as the ads for a two-year-old foreign film on the art house circuit? – all make the claim that it’s a warm study of human resilience. This is at best misleadingly true; the particular manner that the film […]