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 where we missed a piece, share it with us in the comments!
Scott Tobias on A Quiet Place for NPR:
“Limitations are a horror filmmaker’s best friend, whether it’s confining characters to a haunted house, constructing a forest menace out of shaky “found footage,” waiting until the third act to show the shark, or starving the senses in order to heighten them. A Quiet Place is about a wave of blind, deadly arachnid creatures that are sensitive to sound — imagine if the aliens in the Vin Diesel film Pitch Black were deposited on earth, more or less — but it’s really about isolating an effect and custom-fitting a story around it. When a single utterance or unintended noise means quick and certain death, the audience will hang on every bump of the soundtrack, like a heart patient eyeing an EKG.
There are high-minded ways to interpret A Quiet Place, which develops into an affecting metaphor for the perils of parenthood, but it’s effective primarily as a back-to-basics statement of genre fundamentals.”
Mike D’Angleo on The Rider for AV Club:
“Technological innovation has actors justifiably worried that they might one day be replaced by digital avatars. (See, for example, The Congress, in which Robin Wright continues to star in action movies decades after she retires.) Lately, though, it’s starting to look as if they must also contend with a more analog threat: real people playing themselves. Three American soldiers who overpowered a terrorist on a high-speed train re-created their own heroism in Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 To Paris, with authenticity ostensibly compensating for stiff, unnatural performances. And there are no professionals at all to be found in The Rider, which is technically fiction—the main family’s surname has been changed, for example—but more or less re-stages events that took place a few years ago, using the very individuals who had experienced them. More retroactive documentary than docudrama, it’s remarkably effective at creating a sense of verisimilitude, and these non-actors seem far more comfortable in their own skin.”
Noel Murray on HBO’s Andre The Giant for AV Club:
“Before there was CGI, there was Andre The Giant.” So says David Shoemaker, wrestling historian, trying to describe what it was like for audiences in the 1970s the first time they saw the enormous Frenchman André René Roussimoff, either in person or on their TV sets.
Matt Singer on Rampage for Screencrush:
“In the film, Wyden’s DNA experiments are conducted on a space station, supposedly because these hybrid animals are so dangerous they’ve been made illegal… Sure enough, a rat dosed with this Project Rampage stuff gets quite upset, the space station goes kablooey, and the remaining Rampage samples crash land on Earth right next to a gorilla, a wolf, and a crocodile, transforming them into the exact same giant monsters (the exact same ones!) featured in the arcade game that inspired Claire to fund the Project Rampage project in the first place.
That is quite a coincidence, and in another movie it would probably be a problem. In Rampage, it is a selling point. The entire movie is built on this foundation of knowing silliness. Who was it — Socrates maybe, or Snooki from Jersey Shore? — who said that the most important thing in life is to know thyself? Rampage knows itself. It’s so self-aware about its stupidity that it almost loops back around to being smart.”
Sheila O’Malley on You Were Never Really Here for RogerEbert.Com:
“Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lumbering, slow-moving giant. His flesh is so heavy and thick his emotions can’t reach the surface. He’s a closed system of trauma, nervous system flooded by flashbacks from combat experience and an abusive childhood. His face and neck are covered in a thick beard. When he pulls his sweatshirt hood up over his head, he turns into negative space. A blur in the atmosphere. Joe is the agonized center of “You Were Never Really Here,” directed by Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher,” “Morvern Callar,” “We Need To Talk About Kevin”). Based on Jonathan Ames’ novella of the same name, the film is rooted so firmly in Joe’s point of view he sometimes is absent from the screen entirely. We’re inside his head…
“You Were Never Really Here” is a taut and almost unbearably intense 90-minutes, without an ounce of fat on it. Ramsay doesn’t give you a second to breathe.”
Nathan Rabin on The Dark Backward for Control Nathan Rabin:
“[Adam Rifkin’s 1991] The Dark Backward has many of the elements of anti-comedy. Marty [Judd Nelson] bears a distinct physical resemblance to the great fictional anti-comic Neil Hamburger (AKA Gregg Turkington) and the film has all the right influences: David Lynch, John Waters, Devo and The Dr. Demento Show. But those were all blessed with a strong point of view: The Dark Backward is ugly for the sake of ugly and weird for the sake of weird.
Charles Bramesco on Chloe Sevigny for Vulture:
“CB: You recently appeared in the motion picture The Snowman, a matter of great interest to me. In interviews, some of the people involved have hinted that there is a big gap between what the production team put together and what ended up in theaters. Could you offer us any insight?
CS: [Whispering.] I haven’t seen it.
CB: Really? It’s wild.
CS: I was doing a play when it came out! I was really in the zone with rehearsals, it came and went, and I just couldn’t get it together to go out to the cinema. I love Tomas, and I think he’s a great filmmaker. He was so generous on set with his actors that I wrote him a long letter after we wrapped. He was so open to working through the lines, very open to differing interpretations, trying things, very collaborative. Kind of a weird genius. But yeah, I’ve heard there was some strife with the studio. It was not an inexpensive movie. Maybe they took it away and then gave it back to Tomas? So many movies have stories like that. I know that when we spoke about it, Tomas had a very clear vision of what he wanted the movie to say about violence and masculinity and purity. He was clear.”
Kate Erbland on John Krasinski, Emily Blunt and A Quiet Place for Indiewire:
“Despite his childhood fear of horror movies, Krasinski had seen a few of the classics, and both he and Blunt pointed to films like “Jaws” and “Alien” as inspiration for the kind of feature they hoped to make.
“I wanted this movie to feel like it hearkened back to a more classic vibe, those were the movies I had seen, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Alien,’ which are terrifying, but in a different way,” he said. (He’s boned up on other horror films in the interim, and pointed to recent entries like “Let the Right One In,” “The Babadook,” “The Witch,” and “Get Out” as new favorites.)
Despite their classic inspirations, the film comes with a timely edge, too.
“We’re in a kind of fragile world right now, and I think people are identifying with that metaphor of parenthood,” Blunt said. “We had not prepared for that. It is becoming quite a conversation-starter, which we didn’t expect for a horror film. It’s a genre with endless possibilities, which is also why it’s having this sort of rebirth.”
Tasha Robinson on Robin Aubert and his Netflix zombie movie Les Affames (“The Ravenous”) for The Verge:
“TR: There are things about this movie that make it really distinctive and unusual for a zombie story. Did you focus specifically on how to stand out from other zombie films?
RA: I didn’t want to reinvent the horror genre, or the zombie film. For me, what I like about a zombie film is that it’s a zombie film. It’s not that I wanted to make it original. I just have a point of view about the humanity of those zombies. And I think that’s the difference between my zombies, and those of another guy.
Because every auteur writes his point of view into a zombie film. When you start to write a zombie film, you realize you’re doing a social film, a political film. I didn’t know that before. This is my most political film, my most social film, because my zombies are a reflection of what I think about humanity. I didn’t realize that before.”
Scott Tobias on “Every Francis Ford Coppola Movie, Ranked” for Vulture:
“22. Jack (1996)
The only flat-out indefensible film in Coppola’s career, Jack serves mainly to underscore all the ways in which Big could have gone horribly wrong. As a 10-year-old trapped in the body of a hirsute 40-year-old, Robin Williams is playing a character who isn’t aspiring to be older, like Hanks in the earlier film, but a lonely, awkward, lumbering kid who’s seized by alternating bouts of hyperactivity and deep insecurity. What makes Jack so disturbing is how often this man-child is confronted by adult sexuality: He has a sexy mom (Diane Lane), a sexy teacher (Jennifer Lopez), and a sexy single parent (Fran Drescher) who’s constantly hitting on him, and he makes new friends by buying Penthouse magazines. (And this is all before the retrospective horror of Bill Cosby in a major role.) There’s some glimmer of Coppola in the image of childhood innocence preserved in an adult body, but you have to squint to see it.”
Sam Adams on the latest entries in the Netflix vs. Cannes battle for Slate:
“It’s better that movies are made than not made, and to the extent that Netflix brings movies into the world that would not otherwise have existed—whether they’re bootstrap indies or Martin Scorsese’s $125-million-plus The Irishman—that is a good thing. But film preservationists consider theatrical exhibition a cornerstone of their jobs for a reason. A movie isn’t preserved if it’s just sitting on a shelf or sitting unclicked in some virtual backwater. Movies are preserved by being watched, and in order to watch a movie, people have to know it exists. Sarandos told Variety that “Film festivals are to help films get discovered so they can get distribution,” but that process of discovery isn’t over once the first check changes hands. If Sarandos is so devoted to cinema—a word he uses over and over again in Variety’s brief Q&A—then Netflix shouldn’t be trying to undermine the festivals that bring films into the world, or treating them as if they’re farm teams where movies linger until they get called up to the show.”
Kate Erbland on Film Festival communities responsibilities in dealing with a post-#MeToo environment for Indiewire:
“At this year’s SXSW Film Festival, there was at least one attendee who made some people uncomfortable. Ousted Cinefamily owner Hadrian Belove came to Austin with a SXSW badge, six months after allegations of sexual abuse and harassment led to his departure from the Los Angeles independent cinema he founded.
No one suggested Belove did anything wrong at SXSW, but several women told IndieWire they thought his alleged transgressions provided reason enough to expel him. Lee Jameson, a longtime Cinefamily member and a former volunteer, tweeted March 14: “how can @sxsw claim to support
#metoo and focus on tackling sexual harassment issues this year and still allow someone like Hadrian Belove to be an accredited attendee and make women feel unsafe?”
As the film community approaches the Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes, and other major film events to come this year, it’s an issue that’s bound to come up in the wake of #MeToo: What happens when accused harrasers resurface in the film community — and what responsibility, if any, do organizers have to control that inevitability?”