When the late, great website The Dissolve ended operations, its commenting community had The Solute to call home, but the staff and writers of The Dissolve have been scattered to the winds of the Internet. With Dissolve On, we collect some of the essential film writing being done by these essential film writers. Because there’s always a Dissolver writing something notable about the movies somewhere on the Internet.
These folks are talented and prolific, so if we missed a piece, share it with us in the comments!
Tasha Robinson on The Cloverfield Paradox for The Verge:
“It’s hard to fight the sense throughout The Cloverfield Paradox that this film should probably have been a comedy. Certain elements of it are certainly laughable — when Chris O’Dowd’s character has a non-fatal encounter with the unknown, he winds up subject to some incredibly silly-looking special effects that make it hard to take any of it seriously. He’s left mutilated, but instead of being devastated, he takes his wounds with a goofy, upbeat attitude and some lines that are probably meant to be dramatic, but that come across as whimsical and straight-faced-surreal, in a mode familiar from the classic British science-fiction series Red Dwarf.
The arbitrary, scattershot nature of the film’s events wouldn’t matter as much in a comedy, which could operate from laugh to laugh, and surprise to surprise. But in a horror movie, tonal breaks and confusing “Wait, what now?” moments are deadly. The film never works up a momentum, or even a baseline feeling of dread, because nothing about the story makes any sense.”
Scott Tobias on Golden Exits for NPR:
“With films like The Color Wheel, Listen Up, Philip and Queen of Earth, writer-director Alex Ross Perry swiftly established himself as indie-cinema’s premier misanthrope, as if the literate class of Woody Allen movies had been body-snatched by caustic malcontents of John Cassavetes movies. Shot in 16mm, mostly in interiors free of electronic distraction, Perry’s films are defiantly analog in their four-walled intensity, committed to unpacking the restive desires of characters who act on impulse and often look ugly in the process. They have humor, sophistication, and insight, but they don’t cozy themselves up to the audience. There’s a moment early in Perry’s new ensemble piece, Golden Exits, that winks at the very different film it’s going to be.”
Mike D’Angelo on The Ritual for AV Club:
“For the past decade, David Bruckner has occupied an unusual position in the film world: He reliably contributes the strongest segments in horror anthologies. Technically, The Signal (2007), his first effort, constitutes a single narrative; three different directors were in charge of the film’s three “transmissions” (read: acts), though, and it’s all downhill after Bruckner’s tense, unnerving introductory sequence. He subsequently helmed the most memorable short in 2012’s V/H/S (“Amateur Night,” the one about three bros covertly shooting a porn film who pick up the wrong woman in a bar; Bruckner executive-produced but did not direct Siren, the spin-off feature) and the most twisted short in 2015’s Southbound (“The Accident,” the one about the disgustingly gruesome accident). Alas, horror fans who’ve wondered what Bruckner might do with an entire movie of his own will be disappointed by his solo feature-length debut, The Ritual, which attempts to put a twist on the Blair Witch formula but demonstrates surprisingly little imagination.”
Sam Adams on Early Man for Slate:
“Handmade animation is a dying art form, but the stop-motion artisans at Aardman Animations are still carrying its tiny, intricately crafted flag. Early Man, the first movie by Aardman standard-bearer Nick Park in a decade, whisks us back to the Stone Age, when tools were primitive and the wheel was just a gleam in some visionary caveperson’s eye. But while the film is deliberately crude in some respects—Park once described his aesthetic as making sure that, no matter how carefully sculpted his clay figures were, he always left the thumbprints showing—it’s fastidiously detailed in others, dancing between broad humor and subtle, almost subliminal gags as it plays out the conflict between Neanderthals and their evolutionary successors.
Although an opening title winkingly places Early Man’s volcanic landscape somewhere near Manchester, England, the movie isn’t as obsessively steeped in Britishisms as Park’s classic Wallace and Gromit shorts. But the epochal battle between homos neanderthalensis and sapiens takes the most English form imaginable: a football match.”
Keith Phipps on The 15:17 To Paris for Uproxx:
“Of all the criticisms that can be lobbed at Clint Eastwood, no one can accuse him of coasting. Eastwood is 87, long past retirement age for any profession. But he’s spent this century taking on everything from the ambitious war movie bookends Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima to his first musical with Jersey Boys in 2014. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. (See: Jersey Boys.) But either way, Eastwood’s always working on his next movie which probably bears little resemblance to his last movie (and which will share little with the one after that).
That’s true of The 15:17 to Paris, a revisiting of an attempted terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris thwarted in large part by three American tourists, two of them members of the U.S. military. Superficially, it ought to have a lot in common with Eastwood’s last movie, Sully. Both are about a few life-defining moments of heroism. But, in most respects, they couldn’t be much more different.”
David Ehrlich on Isle of Dogs for Indiewire:
“The world is trash, and Wes Anderson is currently enjoying the hottest streak of his career. These things, it turns out, are not unrelated. The worse things get, the more fantastical Anderson’s films become; the more fantastical Anderson’s films become, the better their style articulates his underlying sincerity. Disorder fuels his imagination, and the staggeringly well-crafted “Isle of Dogs” is nothing if not Anderson’s most imaginative film to date.
There’s a whiff of inevitability to that. Whether telling a story about a splintered New York dynasty or one about a faded European hotel where it used to be possible to find some faint glimmers of civilization in this barbaric slaughterhouse known as humanity, Anderson has always been attuned to the beauty of magical idylls, to the violence of losing them, and (most of all) to the fumblingly tragicomic process of building something better from the rubble. But when he started working with stop-motion, it was though he suddenly realized that he could splice his characters directly into the marrow of their stories.”
Nathan Rabin on The Last Airbender for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“The Last Airbender has such a reputation for being terrible that even I, someone who specializes in writing about things that are terrible, was scared off it, despite my mild obsession with Shyamalan, who over the course of his career has been downgraded sharply from “Master storyteller” to “Incompetent storyteller” before getting some of his critical and commercial mojo back with back-to-basic shockers The Visit (which I liked) and Split (which I did not).
M. Night Shyamalan has made a lot of egregiously terrible films but none quite as egregious as The Last Airbender, a film whose Wikipedia page posits it as a film considered one of the worst of all time. From the next Spielberg to a man behind a film considered one of the worst of all time: that’s a hell of a fall but The Last Airbender made me wonder why we fell in love with the Philadelphia-based Frightmaster in the first place.”
Matt Singer on Death Proof for Screencrush:
“…with the publication of a New York Timeseditorial titled This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry…Thurman claims Tarantino “persuaded” her to perform a driving stunt she didn’t want to do. (He wanted to see her hair flapping in the breeze at 40 miles per hour.) She lost control of the car and crashed into a tree, leaving her with a “permanently damaged neck” and “screwed-up knees.” It took Thurman 15 years (and, ultimately, Tarantino’s help) to recover the raw footage of the crash, which Weinstein (and his previous company, Miramax) apparently refused to show to her unless she “signed a document ‘releasing them of any consequences of [her] future pain and suffering.’” As a result, Thurman and Tarantino were in “a terrible fight for years,” and their vaunted collaboration came to a screeching halt.
Instead, Tarantino shifted gears and moved on to an homage to exploitation films called Death Proof, a movie that looks drastically different in light of the revelation of that Kill Bill accident. Once you understand this backstory — that Tarantino went from making a movie where a stunt gone wrong seriously hurt (and permanently altered his relationship with) an actress to one about a stuntman who uses a car to hurt actresses — Death Proof transforms from provocative horror movie into one of the most fascinating (and sometimes troubling) works of Tarantino’s entire career; part self-critique and part exorcism.”
Rachel Handler interviews a Gynecologist, Lauren Streicher, M.D., about aspects of Fifty Shades Freed for Vulture:
“RH: What’s your level of familiarity with the Fifty Shades franchise?
LS, MD: I read the books when they first came out, mainly because I was getting inquiries from writers about what I thought. As a sexual-medicine expert and gynecologist, I needed to know what was in them! Fortunately, it didn’t take me very long, because they’re, as you know, a very fast read and very poorly written [laughs]. [E.L. James] uses the same words again and again, and they’re not very long words.
RH: Was any part of you alarmed by any of it, from a sexual-health perspective?
LS, MD: Certainly the whole idea that she was coerced, in many ways, into this relationship, into a dominating sort of thing. That’s always a little uncomfortable. But it’s fiction. It’s really about fantasy. Fantasy and reality are two different things. I didn’t really find it that alarming. I was mostly alarmed by the bad writing.
RH: Let’s talk about some specific Fifty Shades gynecological issues that have been troubling me…”
Sheila O’Malley posted a transcript of an interview with Mitchell Fain on Burt Reynolds on the occasion of his birthday for The Sheila Variations:
“SOM: One word [about Burt Reynolds].
Burt Reynolds had that thing that you can’t define. He was likeable. In a way, he’s sort of like the stars of today, who are learning to act on our time. They’re beautiful so they get some movie roles, and then we have to suffer through watching them learn to act if we choose to see movies that they’re in. Burt Reynolds was like that. He was so physical and so he could start in Westerns and those sorts of things, it didn’t require that much acting, but he could sit and he could study and he could watch. Burt Reynolds did one of those little TCM bios about Spencer Tracy.
Spencer Tracy was his idol, his ideal. You never caught Spencer Tracy acting. Burt Reynolds was one of those people who took his charisma and took his opportunity and then became an actor. “
Noel Murray on 10 Oscar Nominees Overdue for a Win for Rolling Stone:
“Steve James, Best Documentary Feature, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (1 prior nomination)
Dedicated doc and Oscar buffs know that the widely acclaimed, financially successful Hoop Dreams failed to land in the final five for Best Documentary in 1995; the resulting uproar led to a change in nominating procedures so as to prevent a small, insular committee from ever embarrassing the Academy again. The Editing Branch, meanwhile, seemed to anticipate the outrage, and made sure that Hoop Dreams wouldn’t go unrecognized; which means that James’ lone nomination before this year was for, of all things, Best Editing. His portrait of a small bank paying for Wall Street’s sins may be too slight to beat out the much more substantive Strong Island, Icarus and Last Men in Aleppo, but hey … at least it’s in the right category.
Really deserved to win for: Hoop Dreams
Even the Academy knew this at the time.”
Charles Bramesco on the growing backlashes swirling around 2018 Oscar nominees for The Guardian:
“All opposition, however, is not created equal. While the pushback against some of these films is founded in legitimate artistic objection, other campaigns seize on bad-faith arguments to undermine a movie’s profile. Some of the reaction could qualify as “backlash” – the equal and opposite response to an excess of hype that brings a movie’s expectations back down to earth. The critics mounting such counter-offensives may deny they’re strategically calibrating, but rather lodging valid grievances that just happen to arrive later in a film’s media cycle. Some debates have arisen from content within these releases, and others from the circumstances of their production. But nobody’s making it to Oscar night scot-free. In the parlance of the Christopher Nolan-era Batman: you can die an ethically thorny creative text in relative obscurity, or live long enough into the Oscar race to see yourself become problematic under public scrutiny.”
Kate Erbland on some of the best directors to be nominated for but never win an Oscar for Indiewire:
When it comes to Ivory, two important truths must be noted: There’s no Ivory without Merchant (producer Ismail Merchant was Ivory’s long-time partner, both in their personal and professional lives), and Merchant Ivory Productions’ impact on both the international film scene and the movie public’s affection for period films is hard to overstate. It’s also difficult to quantify in terms of the Academy Awards, for which Ivory was nominated as director for three (two were back to back). Ivory’s artistry is paramount, along with his deep affection and understanding for his characters. Other movies just don’t look like Merchant Ivory movies, they don’t move like them or feel like them, and that’s because of the tremendous care Ivory spent on them. He’s one of the true giants of modern cinema — and, at age 89, he’s still doing it, earning a 2018 Oscar nomination for writing “Call Me by Your Name.” While an Oscar would sure put a nice cherry on top of his decade-spanning career, one gets the sense it’s hardly required at this point. He’s made his mark.”