The Write Stuff


This week I wrote a piece for the Daily Herald in which I give myself a send-off from the paper’s movie-reviewing duties after 36 and a half years.

You can read that here.

I will be continuing to write about film. Here’s a piece in my Seasoned Ticket series for the Scarecrow Video blog, on the zany new Brazilian film Bacurau, which opens today in Seattle.

Our Scarecrow Academy series, “The Art in Horror,” will go on hiatus because of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. We will not gather on Saturdays for at least the near future, but plan to re-schedule the remaining dates.

The 1980s reviews continue to issue forth at What a Feeling! This week’s choices are Bille August’s Oscar-winning Pelle the Conqueror, with a great performance from the late Max von Sydow; William Richert’s A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, featuring the first true lead role for River Phoenix; Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins’ Warning Sign, a forgotten but quite decent virus-panic picture; and Michael Radford’s colonial murder tale, White Mischief.


Movie Diary 3/11/2020

The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine, 2019). It does have a scene in which Jimmy Buffett and Snoop Dog compose a song together, a tribute to Moondog, Matthew McConaughey’s character. (They use “Moonfog” as a rhyme.) So that little piece will be immortal, anyway. The rest is hit-or-miss Korine shenanigans, with some good Florida skies and a rather troubling inclination to use naked nameless women as props. Much of the improv is boring, and McConaughey does not convince as a poet, even of the romanticized-drunk variety.

Movie Diary 3/10/2020

Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, 2019). Not what I was expecting from KMF, the director of my #1 movie of 2016, Aquarius. But oh yeah, it’s crazy in all the good ways. Not entirely sure I get all the layers, and yet everything makes a kind of sense, and putting Udo Kier and Sonia Braga in a scene together is a bullseye of icon-appreciation. Has anybody told John Carpenter about this?

Movie Diary 3/9/2020

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013). The cat watching the subway stations flash by while riding downtown to Greenwich Village – whimsical Coen touch or practical method for explaining how Ulysses eventually finds his way back uptown? Either answer works in this “incredible journey.”

Chernobyl (Johan Renck, 2019). Yes, I watched an actual miniseries. The true story is amazing, the cast is interesting to watch, the physical production is impressive and haunting. Is it heresy, in this golden age of peak television, to suggest that the show is still “just TV”?

Greed Onward (This Week’s Movies)


Steve Coogan: Greed (Sony Pictures Classics)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Onward. “Pixar has given the world many indelible images since the first Toy Story movie in 1995. I guess we can add ‘the gelatinous cube’ to the list.”

Greed. “Coogan, one of the world’s leading experts in conveying fatuousness, is very comfortable here. With his perma-tan and blindingly whitened teeth, he’s a walking advertisement for narcissism.”

Do join us at Scarecrow Academy on Saturday, March 7, for a session devoted to Howard Hawks’s 1951 classic The Thing from Another World. The theme for this semester is “The Art in Horror: Horror and the Director,” and the event is free. That’s 2 p.m., Scarecrow Video.

My blog post for the Scarecrow website this week is a look back at Michael Winterbottom’s 1999 film Wonderland; the director’s new one, Greed, opens this weekend. Read it here.

More 1980s reviews this week at What a Feeling!: Roland Joffe’s Fat Man and Little Boy, the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona, Fred Schepisi’s Roxanne, and James Ivory’s A Room with a View.

Movie Diary 3/3/2020

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010). A re-look at Reichardt’s distinctive Western, about a group of travelers taking a very wrong path. Knowing what was going to happen this time, the final moments – a mysterious tree, an Indian walking away, the breakdown of the bullshitter who made the group lost – felt very strong indeed. I’ve recently seen First Cow, another Reichardt Western, which is different in feel, but a beauty all the same.

Movie Diary 3/2/2020

Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985). Sandrine Bonnaire as the traveler who lives “without roof or law,” as the original title has it. A film of curiosity and integrity, full of documentary-like aspects yet with a strict formal rigor. The refusal to romanticize the vagabond’s journey, or to make her conventionally likable or sympathetic, still feels like a bold decision. The dirty boots thoughtlessly muddying the clean white bedsheets.


Movie Diary 3/1/2020

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962). Still a distinctive movie. Sue Lyon and Shelley Winters are terrific, and watching Peter Sellers is like looking through a window at a particular moment in comedic history (and a window on a particular genius). You can see how Kubrick’s appreciation for a certain kind of drawn-out dialogue scene – something that travels all the way to Eyes Wide Shut – really mushrooms here.

The Captive Heart (Basil Deardon, 1946). Michael Redgrave as a Czech escapee pretending to be a British officer in a German POW camp. He starts getting letters from the officer’s wife (played by Rachel Kempson, Redgrave’s wife), and must reply or look suspicious to his captors. A good set-up. A very British WWII picture – fine cast, stiff-upper-lip sentiment. Some scenes are shot on location at a former camp, which lends an eerie quality, a hard-to-fake vastness, to the backdrop.