Scruggs, Widows, Beasts (This Week’s Movies)


Tim Blake Nelson: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (courtesy Netflix)

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

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. “It’s like a beautifully embroidered needlework laid across a gravesite.” (Herald link here.)

Widows. “tries to be a lot of different things: heist thriller, feminist statement, social-issue diagnosis. That’s a lot to bite off, and 129 minutes isn’t enough time for proper chewing.” (Weekly link here.)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. “Part Two of J.K. Rowling’s latest franchise is a bewildering bummer, a real misstep by this generally sure-footed storyteller.”

Parallax View continues looking at films and reviews from 1998, including my piece on Richard Kiwetnioski’s Love and Death on Long Island. Not a great review on my part, but a somewhat forgotten movie worth remembering.

A Seasoned Ticket offering for Scarecrow Video’s blog, this time a couple of reviews of two smallish Frederick Wiseman films, La danse and Boxing Gym. Read it here.


2007 Ten Best Movies

nocountry2It seems like only a couple of years ago we were arguing the relative merits of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood and the other films of 2007, a strong year in the movie datebook. No Country is the Coen brothers’ razor-sharp realization of Cormac McCarthy terrain, and the kickoff of a cycle (Burn After Reading and A Serious Man included) in which they bend and slice the idea of what a “story” comprises – a cycle that not only cuts out certain traditional scenes and moments we are accustomed to seeing in our stories, but questions why it is we need to tell those stories in the first place.

There Will Be Blood is Paul Thomas Anderson’s wildly ambitious, tonally crazed piece of American secret history. Where the Coens use a diamond drill, Anderson breaks the soil with a bulldozer; the results are heady, risky, and exciting in a particular way. That both movies take the form of modern Westerns makes them even more interesting in the American film canon. The ten best movies of 2007:

1. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen)

2. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)

4. Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez)

5. Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach)

6. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg)

7. Zodiac (David Fincher)

8. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran)

9. Into the Wild (Sean Penn)

10. Once (John Carney)

Couple of personal choices there at the end of the list; could’ve gone with a deserving crew of harder-boiled items crowded around the ten: Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone, Paul Greengrass’s Bourne Ultimatum, Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton, and Johnnie To’s Exiled. Other movies came close, partly because I think they are undervalued or misunderstood: the much-derided Spider-Man 3, which is actually the most nuttily Raimi-esque of that trilogy; Beowulf, in which Zemeckis does exhilarating things with 3D; and Black Snake Moan, Craig Brewer’s Southern gothic drive-in offering.

Eastern Promises is a compact Cronenberg film that seems already forgotten but is a rather amazing movie. Lady Chatterley is a very unusual take on a literary classic/scandal, completely frank and undecorated in its approach, going exactly to the point it needs to go and then simply stopping. Into the Wild, while not perfect, gives an ideal vehicle for Sean Penn’s 21st-century Beat sensibility to express itself, and it fits into the year’s fascinating survey of Americana. Speaking of which, The Assassination of Jesse James etc. might be the most haunting film of 2007, a lyrical bit of melancholy that is enlivened, not embalmed, by its mythic style. Well done, Team USA.