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!
Note: Streaming site FilmStuck (home to much of the Criterion Collection) launched a social media campaign asking folks to name their #FilmStruck4; I’ve included some Dissolvers responses here for fun.
We want to celebrate the personal nature of cinema and fill your timeline with the films that define you. Pick 4 films and then tag 4 friends to do the same! #FilmStruck4
— FilmStruck (@FilmStruck) April 17, 2018
Keith Phipps on his #FilmStruck4
Mr. @joshrothkopf tagged me in the #FilmStruck4 challenge: Pick four films that define you. Going to modify it by adding these films defined me by showing me new possibilities at different points in my life. I tag @GenevieveKoski, @TashaRobinson, @NoelMu & @mattsinger pic.twitter.com/0chLnzWlOV
— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) April 17, 2018
— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) April 18, 2018
Charles Bramesco on William Friedkin for The Guardian:
“He’s aged 82 now, and seven years out from the release of his last film. (That was 2011’s chicken-fried neo-noir Killer Joe, a classically Friedkinian work in its marriage of extreme, lurid material with tightly controlled aesthetic rigor.) He’s on the press circuit once again because he’s finally got a new film to promote, an entirely self-funded documentary titled The Devil and Father Amorth. The project dips back into Friedkin’s past as the man behind The Exorcist, chronicling the real-life purging of a demon by a Vatican higher-up. Skeptics will be tempted to place the words “real-life” in scare quotes, and the film doesn’t mount a particularly convincing case as to why they shouldn’t have that caveat. It’s here that Friedkin’s blithe disregard for what the general public thinks emerges as the source of all his power; believe him or don’t believe him, it’s all the same as far as he’s concerned.
In the spring of 2016, while in the town of Luca to receive a prize for his achievements in the world of opera, Friedkin wrote on a lark to a theologian friend in Rome requesting an audience with the pope or, failing that, the official papal exorcist. Much to his surprise, the reply came in the affirmative, and he had an audience with Father Gabriele Amorth one week later. Friedkin had spent 45 years throwing scripts about demonic possession in the garbage, but the prospect of capturing the genuine article proved too tempting. He used this meeting to lodge a humble request: if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could he record an exorcism?”
Mike D’Angleo on Juliette Binoche in The Widow Of Saint-Pierre for AV Club:
“It’s one of those cruel Oscar ironies that Juliette Binoche’s sole nomination for Best Actress—she’d won Best Supporting Actress four years earlier, as nurse Hana in The English Patient—celebrates perhaps the least interesting performance of her entire lengthy career. In fact, anyone not well steeped in Oscar trivia will probably be hard-pressed even to remember the film in question, as Chocolat is a wan period romance (also starring Johnny Depp) that Harvey Weinstein, at the height of his grotesque kingpin era, more or less strong-armed through the 2000–2001 awards season. And there’s more irony still: During the ceremony, as Binoche applauded for winner Julia Roberts, audiences in at least a few U.S. cities were happily watching her do far superior work in a much better movie, which the Academy later politely ignored.
Matt Singer on his MCU rankings after completion of his History of the MCU series for Screencrush:
“And yet here we sit a decade later and we can say, quite conclusively that it worked. Iron Man begat a sequel, plus The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. Then six more movies. Then seven more after that. (Ant-Man showed up eventually, but it took a little while.) Ten years later, we’ve arrived at the climax of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War. What better time then to rank them all?
After watching Infinity War, and rewatching all of the 18 previous MCU movies, I have arrived at this guaranteed to be in-no-way controversial ranking, from the worst film Marvel has made so far (you know what it is) to the best. Again, these are my personal references. For more on what I think of each film, follow the links to each respective essay in my History of the Marvel Cinematic Universe column. Then come back in July when we do this all over again for Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
Matt Singer on his #FilmStruck4
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) April 18, 2018
Nathan Rabin on The Ridiculous Six in his new column The Zeroes for Rotten Tomatoes:
“It wasn’t just Sandler’s lowbrow junk that was getting shut out by audiences that had finally had enough. His intermittent attempts to do something different and arty and more highbrow bombed big-time too. If anything, Sandler’s turn as a morose suburban dad in Jason Reitman’s ridiculous, hysterical melodrama Men, Women and Children and a tailor whose life becomes infused with clunky magic in Tom McCarthy’s muddled, surreal fantasy comedy The Cobbler were even worse received — commercially if not critically — than late-period Sandler flops like That’s My Boy, Blended, and Pixels. So when it was announced that a man whose name once all but guaranteed huge ticket sales, particularly among teenage boys, had signed a deal to have four movies skip the multiplex altogether and debut on streaming giant Netflix, it was seen, rightfully, as a dispiriting illustration of the actor’s fading popularity.
What’s frustrating about Sandler is that he remains a profoundly talented and likable performer, as evidenced by his well-received recent dramatic turn in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. As Punch Drunk Love and Funny People also illustrated, Sandler can be a compelling, mercurial, and magnetic dramatic actor, if only he didn’t waste his time with projects like 2015’s The Ridiculous 6, the very first movie in his much-hyped Netflix deal and the unhappy recipient of a zero percent score here at Rotten Tomatoes.”
Tasha Robinson on Marrowbone for The Verge:
“[Director Sergio G.] Sánchez is the screenwriter of the excellent, terrifying Spanish horror film The Orphanage, and his Marrowbone script follows some of the same ideas: a woman returning to her childhood home looking for comfort, a horrifying ghost that haunts her, a guardian that can’t be trusted, and a tone that veers between frightening and melancholy. But in his directorial debut, Sánchez makes a lot of specific, distinctive choices of his own.
The look of the film is particularly marvelous — not just its luminous, sunny quality, which draws heavily on natural light, but its sharpness and muted color, which makes it look like a Vermeer painting. And the decomposing house offers plenty of starkly beautiful settings, through rooms where the wallpaper is warping and the ceiling is slowly peeling downward, one board at a time. The metaphor in all this decay and disintegration is clear: the family is coming apart under the weight of their past, both the choices they’ve made and the ones made for them. But the way Sánchez’s camera moves around the house, giving an impression of echoing space and haunted rooms, is just as important.”
Noel Murray on Edge of Isolation for the L.A. Times:
“Ignore the nondescript title; writer-director Jeff Houkal’s backwoods horror film “Edge of Isolation” has personality and just enough splatter to satisfy gore-hounds. The plot’s a rehash of ’70s/’80s drive-in classics like “The Hills Have Eyes,” but this movie has its own odd energy and is effectively icky.
Houkal plays some with the racial and class tensions underlying the relationship between the city slickers and their rural hosts, though “Edge of Isolation” isn’t really a political film. It’s more about how these cultured heroes go from being mildly weirded out to openly disgusted by the Polifers’ ways.
Noel Murray on his #FilmStruck4
Tagged into the #FilmStruck4 by @kphipps3000 . I won't tag anyone else (though if @donnadb wants to participate, I'd be interested to see her picks). Four films that define me, all available to stream right now on FilmStruck. pic.twitter.com/UZhx7RQg1F
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) April 18, 2018
Honorary Dissolver Donna Bowman on her #FilmStruck4
Tagged for #FilmStruck4 by @NoelMu! Four films that define me, all available on @FilmStruck. I cheated on the last one to get two in there, I'll admit. I tag @inessentials @hollye83 @intothecrevasse pic.twitter.com/SrES2CjDy3
— Donna Bowman (@donnadb) April 18, 2018
Rachel Handler on Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody’s 40 year marriage for Vulture:
“I’m sitting across from Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody in a tiny student cafeteria at the Upper West Side’s Jewish Theological Seminary. We’re ostensibly here to talk about how their activist work intersects with their artistic pursuits and their Judaism, a topic they spoke about at length alongside their friend and fellow activist Ruth Messinger to a rapt audience just an hour or so earlier. But we just happen to be meeting on the 40th anniversary of their first date, in the exact space where they got married. So instead, I spend a totally delightful half-hour listening to them laugh, cry, and reminisce about their relationship, which is visibly intense, deeply loving, and, as Grody puts it, “Grecian — as in comedy and drama.
RH: And it’s the 40th anniversary of your first date. What’d you guys do that day?
MP: We were doing a play; it was the Ensemble Studio Theater’s first one-act play festival. I’d gotten burned by somebody I was dating and doing a play with a year earlier, so I wouldn’t go out with anybody I was working with until the play was over. And I was dying to get to know her! So we made a date for the Sunday when it was over. Saturday night, I sent her a gift, and I picked up some yellow-button mums that cost nothin’, and some white spriggy stuff. And I showed up at Black Sheep Tavern, which is closed, a long time ago — we tried to go there today, it was on Washington and 11th Street.
And I sat down and gave her the flowers, and I said, “I’m gonna marry you!” She [pointed at me and said], “You!” And I snapped a picture. We took a picture just like that today. I’ll show you [shows me photo on his phone]. That was 40 years ago, today.
KG: He had a camera out before he even sat down [Laughs].”
David Ehrlich on I Feel Pretty for Indiewire:
“Not exactly the first movie that’s ever dared to suggest that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, “I Feel Pretty” at least has the decency to be honest about how far that wisdom can take you. For starters, Schumer’s character isn’t a train wreck this time around. By most standards, Renee Bennett is actually doing pretty well for herself. She’s got a decent job doing web stuff for the fancy LeClair fashion empire, making okay money from the decrepit Chinatown office she’s forced to share with her only co-worker (Adrian Martinez, hilarious in a role that amounts to 20 different ways of saying “fuck my life”). She’s got two best friends (Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips), which is a major indulgence for anyone in their mid-thirties. And she’s got plenty of red wine to drink with them, which helps take the edge off the fact that she doesn’t love the way she looks.
The movie doesn’t share the perspective that Renee is a hideous sea hag unworthy of human love, nor does it encourage us to see her that way. On the contrary, writer-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (who have scripted rom-coms like “Never Been Kissed” and “How to Be Single”) focus on the fact that Renee feels awful, even if her insecurities are mostly self-inflicted.”
Kate Erbland (seven of the ten capsule entries) on films by female filmmakers coming this summer for Indiewire:
When she was growing up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s beloved mother Celia gave her two lessons to guide her through life: “Be a lady” and “Be independent.” That two-pronged approach appears to have influenced every aspect of the Supreme Court justice’s life, both personal and political. In Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s wide-ranging “RBG,” Ginsburg’s life — and its many lessons, both learned and taught — come to entertaining and energetic life. It’s a fist-pumping, crowd-pleasing documentary that makes one heck of a play to remind people of Ginsburg’s vitality and importance, now more than ever. “RBG” serves as a compelling Ginsburg primer, and West and Cohen are understandably interested in driving home just how fully she fought back sexism at every stage of her professional life, from her experience at Harvard Law to her first steps into full-time work to her Supreme Court appointment. Yet it’s the insights into her personal life that feel the most vital, moving “RBG” beyond the kind of information you could read on a Wikipedia page (as ably and entertainingly rendered as they may be on the big screen). -KE”
Genevieve Koski on her #FilmStruck4
Thank you to everyone who's tagged me in the #FilmStruck4 challenge, being paralyzed with indecision and self-doubt is such a hoot! (I will do it eventually. Maybe.)
— Genevieve Koski (@GenevieveKoski) April 18, 2018
okay I relent, here is my #Filmstruck4, can you spot a theme?
— Genevieve Koski (@GenevieveKoski) April 18, 2018
Sam Adams on Frederick Wiseman’s films arriving online for Slate:
“In January, legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who has been chronicling the lives of mostly American institutions for more than half a century, announced that he would finally be putting his movies online for the first time. Wiseman’s movies, which have been shot in mental institutions and on military bases, in hospitals and public parks, comprise one of the most monumental bodies of work by a single artist, but despite being awarded a lifetime-achievement Oscar in 2016, he’s remained something of a cult figure. His movies, which run as long as six hours, defy the rules of traditional theatrical distribution, and apart from a single PBS broadcast apiece, they’ve rarely been available to a mass audience.
That all changed today. As of this afternoon, a whopping 40 of Wiseman’s movies—nearly everything he’s every directed—are available via the streaming service Kanopy, which can be accessed through many public libraries, universities, and other institutions of the kind Wiseman has devoted himself to exploring in his work. (His latest, Ex Libris, is a portrait of the New York Public Library, and will be added to Kanopy after its PBS broadcast in the fall.)”
Scott Tobias on 12 great Romanian films that available via streaming for NYT Watching:
“For over a decade, Romanian cinema has been a force on the international film scene, specializing in dry comedies and intense, slow-burn dramas about ordinary people suffering under bureaucratic dysfunction. But there’s plenty of variety in this 12-film introduction, which includes work from major filmmakers like Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu and Corneliu Porumboiu, along with exciting contributions from less-celebrated directors.
The Treasure (2016)
Scott Tobias on his #FilmStruck4
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) April 18, 2018