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 Overboard for NPR:
“At first glance, the remake of Overboard sounds like the product of a wayward pitch meeting.
Given Anna Faris’ status as Goldie Hawn’s heir apparent — a modern-day Lucille Ball with an up-for-anything mania and a gift for the low arts of slapstick and pulling faces — it would make sense to cast her in a spruced-up version of Hawn’s popular 1987 fish-out-of-water comedy. Yet that film’s gender dynamics of the original film might seem, say, a little old-fashioned 30 years later, with Kurt Russell’s widowed carpenter essentially forcing Hawn’s snooty amnesiac into domestic servitude. So the solution wasn’t to scrap the project altogether, but to swap gender roles, which means casting Faris in Russell’s part and forgetting about the Faris/Hawn syncopation altogether.
And yet out of these conceptual lemons, the new Overboard makes an improbably decent batch of lemonade, albeit one with an extra scoop of sugar.”
Did we talk about how the new OVERBOARD takes place in the same world as the old OVERBOARD? This sets the table for a *third* trip to the Overboardverse that would indeed be the most ambitious crossover event of all time.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) May 9, 2018
Mike D’Angelo on The Day After for AV Club:
“Americans of a certain age, for whom The Day After conjures terrifying images of nuclear apocalypse (thanks to a 1983 TV-movie of that title), can rest easy. Nothing remotely momentous ever happens in the films of Korean director Hong Sang-soo, and The Day After—one of three features he premiered last year, arriving in U.S. arthouses after On The Beach At Night Alone and Claire’s Camera—is even more inconsequential than usual. That needn’t necessarily be a bad thing, since Hong’s obsession with small-scale, mundane human behavior contributes to his best work’s considerable charm. But he’s taken this approach too far in The Day After, a lazy shoulder shrug of a movie that never bothers to work out who its characters are, what they want, or why their ostensible problems should be of interest to anyone else.
Even the film’s structure—usually Hong’s forte—seems atypically imprecise, as if he started out with one idea and then abruptly changed course. (Reliable reports indicate that he now more or less writes his screenplays as he goes along; though the actors aren’t improvising, they only see their dialogue an hour or two before the scene in question is shot.)”
David Ehrlich on Manhunt for Indiewire:
“It’s been 21 long years since John Woo made a good movie (although “Red Cliff” has its fans, and “good” feels like an inadequate description of 1997’s “Face/Off”), and the legendary Hong Kong director appears to be well aware of that fact. “Manhunt,” Woo’s dumb but deliriously fun new film, is nothing if not a very conscious attempt to turn back the clock and revisit the wild kind of pistol opera that he helped to popularize in the late ’80s with classics like “The Killer” and “A Better Tomorrow.”
A throwback in more ways than one, “Manhunt” was born from Woo’s desire to pay tribute to his favorite actor. A remake of a 1976 Ken Takakura vehicle of the same name, the Japan-set film opens with a scene in which an old film literally saves someone’s life. Chinese lawyer Du Qiu (a hangdog Zhang Hanyu, channeling “ER”-era George Clooney) ducks into an Osaka bar to have a drink and lament that “nobody talks about classic films anymore.” But wait! He’s got a DVD of [unspecified classic film] in his car, and he’s just going to pop outside to get it. All hell breaks loose the millisecond he closes the door behind him, the bar’s two waitresses (Ha Ji-won and Angeles Woo) seamlessly pulling guns out of their robes and slaughtering the rabble of gangsters who’ve gathered in the backroom.
It’s so beautiful how Woo transitions from drama to action, in that he doesn’t really bother. There’s zero escalation. One shot is talking, the next shot is killing — it’s as natural as breathing in and then out. Such is the joy of a film that layers several different genres on top of each other, cuts to flashbacks in the middle of shootouts, and never misses an opportunity to add a little more bang for your buck.”
[me before watching John Woo’s MANHUNT]
“i wonder if he still has that weird obsession with doves?”[me 25 minutes into John Woo’s MANHUNT]
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) May 3, 2018
Sheila O’Malley on Disobedience for RogerEbert.com:
“Disobedience,” Sebastián Lelio’s follow-up to his 2017 Oscar-winning film “A Fantastic Woman,” and his first English-language film, starts with a Rabbi giving a sermon about free will. He speaks of angels, beasts, and Adam and Eve. He says, fearsomely, that humans are “free to choose.” Then he drops dead. There’s something refreshing about a story so unconcerned with “subtlety.” Put it all out there. Foreground the theme. Underline as you go. “Disobedience,” based on Naomi Alderman’s novel (with adaptation by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz) is a good old-fashioned melodrama, albeit with a quieter touch.
This is Lelio’s third film in a row about women (the first being 2013’s “Gloria”), and he is deeply empathetic to the ways in which repressive societies put women in all kinds of impossible double- and triple-binds. In “A Fantastic Woman,” a trans woman fought to be allowed to grieve for her dead lover, and Lelio’s focus on the cruelty of the surrounding world pushed the film into a nightmare-scape. He dials this back in “Disobedience.” There are no villains.”
— Nathan Rabin (@nathanrabin) May 9, 2018
Nathan Rabin on Superman III for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“Superman III feels like the work of people deeply ashamed to be making a superhero movie in the first place, but particularly embarrassed to be making this juvenile romp. Superman III serves as a reminder that studios have been getting Superman egregiously wrong for a very, very long time. Remove the wildly successful, influential and beloved first two entries in the Superman live-action saga and what do you have? 1983’s Superman III, of course, followed by the even more disastrous spin-off Supergirl. Then there’s Cannon’s famously bungled cheapo sequel 1987 Superman IV: Quest for Peace.
Watching Superman III in 2018 in the shadow of Avengers: Infinity War’s extraordinary, record-breaking success is a surreal experience. On one level, the film’s chilly reception reflected questions and issues and concerns we’re very much still dealing with today, particularly involving tone. Do you treat this material as sacred Americana, solemn myth-making, or do you play up the absurdity of a dude in tights flying around the world thwarting evil-doers? Do you go serious and gritty or goofy and campy? “
Rewatching PUBLIC ENEMIES for the first time since I put it at #3 on my 2009 Top 10 list. Gratified to find that the me from 9 years ago knew what he was doing. This movie is swell.
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) May 3, 2018
Noel Murray on Young Adult on the occasion of Tully‘s release for The Verge:
“Tully debuted at Sundance in January as a surprise sneak preview — just as Get Out did the year before — and the positive word of mouth from that first screening grew even louder as Tully played around the spring film festival circuit. The movie currently has a 79 Metacritic score and a 93 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics hailing its frank, funny observations about the indignities of motherhood. Theron has also been singled out for her commitment to playing a character decidedly less badass than her recent roles in Mad Max: Fury Road and Atomic Blonde.
In that way, Tully is a lot like Young Adult, where Theron’s Mavis is an immature slob, operating almost entirely on impulse. Young Adult is unusual in that its heroine is the most unlikable character on the screen, corrupting nearly everyone she meets with her selfish scheming. Yet Theron plays Mavis so unselfconsciously that even at her worst, she comes across as a real person in real pain, which makes her at least somewhat sympathetic. It’s an outstanding performance, from an actress who’s had a varied and distinguished career.”
The Next Picture Show (Tasha Robinson, Scott Tobias, Keith Phipps and Genevieve Koski) on The Rider and Close-Up:
New ep! Inspired by THE RIDER, we're looking back at Abbas Kiarostami's "casually radical" 1990 classic CLOSE-UP, which also blends narrative and documentary to find a third approach that draws on the strengths of both while committing to neither: https://t.co/xhMb0ZY4fs pic.twitter.com/CDMjLwprmE
— Next Picture Show (@NextPicturePod) May 1, 2018
New ep! THE RIDER, one of 2018's best films, is a natural descendent of Abbas Kiarostami's CLOSE-UP. We discuss how they both dance on the line separating fact and fiction, through their use of non-actors, sense of place, and preoccupation with identity: https://t.co/Mk6uE5e128 pic.twitter.com/V9YzLJ7j8C
— Next Picture Show (@NextPicturePod) May 3, 2018
Tasha Robinson on Andrew Niccol for The Verge:
“At this point in Andrew Niccol’s career, audiences should be pretty clear on when they’re watching one of his films, even if they miss the opening credits. Niccol specializes in high-concept stories about the ways technology affects society — sometimes radically, like in his science fiction films Gattaca, In Time, and S1m0ne, and sometimes more subtly, as in his drone-warfare drama Good Kill or his arms dealer story Lord of War. He’s a writer as well as a director. He scripted Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, which stars Jim Carrey as a man raised in a bubble as a reality-TV project, and he was a writer on Steven Spielberg’s Tom Hanks vehicle The Terminal.
But mostly, Niccol writes and directs his own projects, which he tends to give a chilly, oppressive feel. His characters are often rigid and repressed, reflecting their worlds’ considerable anxieties and frustrations. His latest film, the Netflix release Anon, is another case in point. The film takes place in a dystopic future where everyone has embedded technology that records their point of view from infancy onward.
TR: So many of your films have a similar sterile, forbidding tone and look. How did you hit on this style?
AN: Well, it’s the stories that dictate the style. They all have a slightly different feel. If you go back to Gattaca, characters are scared of leaving a trace of themselves, so the world is very sterile. And in The Truman Show, everything looks artificial because the protagonist is living in a counterfeit world. In Time is slightly different as well because time is precious, so nothing exists that would be a waste of time. For instance, there’s no graffiti, because why would you spend time scrawling on a wall? And in the world of Anon, there’s almost no signage because all the ads are really in your head. So the story often dictates exactly the look.”
— Sheila O'Malley (@sheilakathleen) May 9, 2018
Kate Erbland on The Russo Brothers for Indiewire:
“We can never forget that the pivotal moment in our careers as filmmakers came when we were just these obscure weirdo filmmakers from Cleveland making a movie that nobody really wanted to see, except for one guy: Steven Soderbergh,” Anthony said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “He appreciated something of value in it, which, by the way, almost nobody else did. He was the only person of any consequence that said, ‘I see something of value in there.’ He helped us move forward from that moment.”
Added Joe, “He’s our mentor. He really taught us.”
The Russos first met Soderbergh at the 1997 Slamdance Film Festival, where they were premiering their feature debut, an off-kilter comedy made on the very cheap called “Pieces.” Soderbergh had previously broken out with his Palme d’Or-winning “sex, lies and videotape,” but the filmmaker was already showing off his now-characteristic bent towards mixing it up by bowing his bonkers, mostly improvised “Schizopolis” at the indie festival. Soderbergh saw “Pieces” and became an instant champion for both it and the Russos, eventually producing their first released film, “Welcome to Collinwood.”
“That was a remarkable change for us,” Anthony said. “It enabled us to have a voice as filmmakers, and so we look at it as our responsibility now. Artists are in a specific position to see something in other artists or see something in a specific piece of material that may be special that the normal business model of Hollywood can’t notice, can’t recognize, or isn’t willing to work with, for whatever reason.”
Keith Phipps on the implications of Avengers: Infinity War‘s ending for the MCU for The Verge:
“Warning: Major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War lie ahead.
Everybody knew there would be deaths in Avengers: Infinity War. Nobody was prepared for how many. But now that the world has collectively gasped as hero after hero disappeared in Infinity War’s final moments, everybody knows they’re bound to come back, and that we shouldn’t take their deaths seriously. This is a comic book movie, and Marvel’s films operate by comic book logic that dictates no death lasts forever, except formative ones like Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben. (Plus, many of the affected characters have upcoming movies that were announced long ago.)
The only problem: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote Infinity War and its still-untitled sequel, have said we should take that ending seriously. Speaking to Buzzfeed, Markus said, “I just want to tell you it’s real, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will be able to move on to the next stage of grief.” While we have every reason not to take that statement at face value, it’s at least worth turning his claim into a thought exercise. Would the Marvel Cinematic Universe be a more surprising, dramatically compelling place if, in spite of the superheroic efforts of those left behind, none of the eradicated characters ever returned to the story?”
Matt Singer on Star Wars Movies that were never made for Screencrush:
“1. Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye
When science-fiction author Alan Dean Foster was recruited to write the novelization of the original Star Wars, he was also contracted to write a second book with a relatively small-scale plot with the intention that if Star Wars wasn’t a massive success his book could be easily (and, more importantly, cheaply) adapted into a sequel. Star Wars went on to become one of the biggest movies ever, spawning The Empire Strikes Back, but Foster’s book was published anyway as the first official Star Wars novel. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye follows Luke and Leia on a planet called Mimban as they search for the Kaiburr crystal, which can supposedly augment a Jedi’s Force powers.”
4. The Wookie Movie
Before Lucas grew weary of the nonstop grind of Star Wars and backed off the franchise (at least the movie franchise) through the late ’80s and early ’90s, he teased other possible films which were essentially the equivalent of the Disney Star Wars spinoff or standalone films decades before that concept was officially put into production. In a 1980 interview, Lucas threatened suggested that he might make a Star Wars movies just about droids “with no humans in it.” And he also claimed that he was intrigued by an idea of a Star Wars movie “just about Wookies, nothing else.” As the Star Wars Holiday Special proved, this was a tremendous idea with a huge amount of potential.”
Rachel Handler on the question “Is Thanos Hot?” in a piece by Kyle Buchanan for Vulture:
“My main problem with Thanos as a potential thirst object is his proportions, which I can only describe as ‘whatever the opposite of the Golden Ratio is.’ Thanos’s head is too small, and yet, his chin is too large. His neck is a water tower, but his lips do not even exist. Please don’t get me started on his ears. Imagining the size of his nipples is enough to send me into lifelong celibacy. His eyes are 1/200th the size of his fingernails. Put your own fingernail next to your eye for more information.” —Rachel Handler
The Cool Fictional Woman job used to be “journalist.” It is now “cold-blooded assassin.” Making adjustments accordingly pic.twitter.com/l2q1PYrqhn
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) April 30, 2018
Charles Bramesco on Every Netflix Original Movie, Ranked for Vulture:
“113. The Do-Over
Let’s start with the most noxious entry in Sandler’s fruitful collaboration with Netflix. David Spade plays a henpecked beta cuck unsatisfied with his pitiful existence, which makes him receptive to an intriguing offer from old buddy Sandler when they meet up at their high-school reunion. A flimsy scheme to reinvent their lives by pinching a pair of dead guys’ identities goes about as poorly as one could reasonably expect, and mostly just cues up tired gags about being tired. That’s the one faintly redemptive feature of this otherwise barren movie: The Sandler filmography gets a rare flash of self-awareness when Spade’s emasculated loser screams, “I’m so tired of women lying to me and fucking me over!” while in a full-on fist fight with yet another “untrustworthy female.”
27. The Polka King
In 2004, a Polish immigrant by the name of Jan Lewan was arrested for masterminding a Ponzi scheme with receipts that ran into the millions. The bizarre account of his road to that moment lays a strong foundation for this zippy comedy about a lunge at the American dream that ends in a belly flop. Jack Black sinks his incisors into the role of the perpetually upbeat Lewan as an opportunity to do what he does best — namely, a funny voice and rock star-lite strutting during the whirlwind polka numbers. Diverting supporting turns from Jenny Slate as Jan’s homegrown beauty-queen wife and Jason Schwartzman as his harried right-hand man very nearly compensate for the often-clumsy application of commentary on National Themes.
2. My Happy Family
Having a steady job as a teacher and an income to go with it, 52-year-old Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) can afford to abdicate her duties as a mother and wife to go live alone, where she’s beholden only to herself. The social and psychological costs of her effort to engineer a late-in-life new beginning, however, total out to a much higher sum. In this superb drama co-directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß, long takes rolling on for minutes at a time give Manana and the people in her immediate orbit space to reveal their inner workings through the naturalistic, sometimes awkward language of gestures and implication. Manana communicates with her husband and children on the specialized, nonverbal frequency that families develop over time, and with a little distance, she realizes that they all wrestle with their own struggles. It’s one of those films that rightly earns a phrase so overused it now verges on meaninglessness, but all the same — it’s a movie about what it means to be human.”
I didn't leave my desk and wrote 3000 words today so I guess I'm officially a freelancer now.
— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) May 7, 2018
Keith Phipps on Stanley Kubrick, through the music he used in his films for Vulture:
“Stanley Kubrick died on March 7, 1999, shortly before the release of his final film, Eyes Wide Shut, but sometimes that’s easy to forget. Nineteen years later, Kubrick remains inescapable. He is the subject of museum exhibits (including a mammoth, career-spanning tribute at LACMA a few years ago and a just-opened look at his years as a photographer at the Museum of the City of New York), books (most recently Michael Benson’s Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece), and documentaries. And opening in New York this Friday, May 11 before expanding, Filmworker revisits Kubrick’s career from the perspective of Leon Vitali, an actor who largely surrendered his career in front of the camera to serve as Kubrick’s assistant.
Kubrick even has a new movie coming out, sort of. A new 70-mm. print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, struck from the original negative and touted as an “unrestored” print, will begin touring the country May 18 after being premiered at Cannes by Christopher Nolan, who helped shepherd the project.
With all that Kubrickiana floating around the cultural ether, it’s a good time to consider another approach to looking at Kubrick’s career: by listening to it. Kubrick was a distinctive visual stylist, but he also made innovative use of music. To explore this, we created a playlist that doubles as a history of Stanley Kubrick’s film career in 21 tracks.”