Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

According to a certain strand of criticism that has existed since the early 1960s, the biggest single shortcoming with Ingmar Bergman is that he is fundamentally apolitical. His international heyday exactly overlapped with a moment of heightened political activism around the world from artists of every medium, much of it oriented in opposition to the […]

The project that has finally emerged as The Trial of the Chicago 7, a direct-to-Netflix that was supposed to be Paramount’s big awards push and the inaugural film of Oscar movie season back in the Before Times, has been percolating since 2006. That was when Steven Spielberg commissioned Aaron Sorkin to write a film based […]

A finalist from the first round of voting in the poll to select what 2020 indie film I should watch and review next. Vote in that and the other polls if you want to control my, and the website’s fate I would like to start by pushing back against the idea that The Assistant, the […]

The Silence is a film of negation. The first words spoken –  the first of not very many, at that – are a declaration of ignorance and meaninglessness. A boy of ten or eleven, Johan (Jörgen Lindström) points to a sign written in an unfamiliar language, asking, “Vad betyder det?” (What does that mean?). Off-camera […]

When I think upon Ingmar Bergman’s cinema, and what most perfectly embodies it, why he is one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time and what are the irreducible components of his style, what I always think of first is Winter Light from 1963. Specifically, I think of the shot of Ingrid Thulin’s face. […]

The quintessential Ingmar Bergman films, to me – the once that most sum up all of his strengths as a film director, his preoccupations as a writer, and his function in the ecosystem of art cinema – are a set of three movies he made in the early 1960s, right when his international visibility was […]

Brink of Life is an overlooked film in Ingmar Bergman’s career, possibly because he later stepped away from it, but it feels to me like a crucial example of his developing career at the end of the 1950s. On top of being, in its own right, a terrific acting showcase, which by this point was […]

The most amusing thing about the 1972 adaptation of Solaris – a film about which very little is amusing, to be fair – is that Andrei Tarkovsky made it, basically, as a “one for them” project. His previous feature, Andrei Rublev, had met with enormous hostility upon delivery, and was shelved for five years; his […]

I wonder, if I didn’t already know that Ivan’s Childhood was possibly my least favorite and certainly the least audacious and ambitious of the seven feature films directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, if I’d be less inclined to nitpick it. Taken solely in the context of the Soviet art cinema of the late 1950s and early […]

Diary of a Country Priest, from 1951, was the third feature film directed by French director Robert Bresson, and it is the hinge on which his entire career pivots. Prior to this point, he made the kind of films people were making in France in the ’40s: solemn melodramas for respectable middle class audiences who […]

The learning curve for early sound cinema was steep and fast. In the immediate wake of the enormously popular sync-sound scenes from 1927’s The Jazz Singer, the American film indsutry jumped with great enthusiasm and no planning into making some of the most awkward, unwatchable films of its entire history across the course of 1928, […]

It says something – and as a contented old atheist, I hardly know if I’m in a position to say what, but it’s something – that The Last Temptation of Christ could have the theologically promiscuous fatherhood of an Italian Catholic director working from a screenplay that a Calvinist writer adapted from a 1955 novel […]