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!
Special Note: Keith Phipps left Uproxx last month but you can keep tabs on his recent freelance work at his new website:
* apologies for self-promotion *: I don't have a permanent home right now, but if you like my work, I do have a website: https://t.co/YjGXSb3X3I. Mostly I'm just collecting clips, but I may blog occasionally. There's one entry up about THE FLY and my dental problems. It's gross!
— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) May 30, 2018
Scott Tobias on Book Club for NPR:
“When four friends get together every month to talk about popular fiction, the cork pops, the glasses fill, and the sexual metaphors flow so readily that even the name of a Werner Herzog documentary is dropped suggestively. (Though it’s not, alas, Little Dieter Needs to Fly.)
These are the best moments in Book Club, when Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen sit around trading one-liners until plot needs servicing again. First-time director Bill Holderman, who wrote the script with Erin Simms, has designed the film as a victory lap for Hollywood legends, an easy trot where they can bask in the adulation of the crowd. The Keaton of Annie Hall and Reds, the Fonda of Barbarella and Klute, the Bergen of Carnal Knowledge, the Steenburgen of Melvin and Howard — there’s only a trace memory of them here, enough to evoke the essence of their screen persona without the provocation that forged it. It’s a pleasant, no-stakes affair, as numbing as a two-glass buzz.”
Mike D’Angelo on Summer 1993 for AV Club:
“The autobiographical childhood reminiscence, while naturally appealing to fledgling filmmakers in search of material (“Write what you know,” etc.), can be tricky to pull off. Unless your formative years were unusually eventful—spent fashioning a playground from the rubble of buildings bombed in the Blitz, for instance, as John Boorman recounts in his superb 1987 film Hope And Glory—you risk compiling a shapeless series of anecdotes, based on hazy memories, that won’t be nearly as meaningful for audiences as they are for you. With Summer 1993, her accomplished debut feature, Carla Simón succeeds in creating a rich, vivid world from her own turbulent pre-adolescence, though the film does meander in a way that makes its deeply personal nature unmistakable. Such self-indulgent sprawling might have been a bigger problem had Simón focused on the winter of ’93 or the autumn. Summer, designated for idleness and detours (especially when it comes to small children), is much more conducive to a lack of structure.”
Sam Adams on Deadpool 2 for Slate:
“You know that uncle? Not the racist one. The one who’s always the life of the party, even when there’s no party, who has one beer too many and punches your arm just a little too hard, who’s always telling jokes even when no one laughs and takes that silence as an invitation to try even harder. That’s Deadpool 2. The follow-up to 2016’s surprise superhero smash is even more overtly “edgy,” concluding its opening sequence with a shot in which its nigh-indestructible hero is blown to bits, his severed head and limbs turning graceful slow-motion spirals as they ride a fireball toward the camera. But not too far beneath the movie’s superficial abrasiveness is a desperate desire to be loved, a puppyish determination that is both hard to resist and, eventually, difficult to endure.
Directed by John Wick’s David Leitch, Deadpool 2 has better choreographed, more coherent action scenes than any of its comic book cousins, and its post-credit scenes are genuinely worth sticking around for. They might even be the best part of the film, but only because the rest of the movie feels patched together from scraps, including some sentimental interludes that seem designed to give it “heart” but merely come off as insincere.”
Charles Bramesco on BlacKkKlansman for Birth.Movie.Death:
“BLACKkKLANSMAN, Spike Lee’s incendiary retelling of an unlikely operation in which a black cop and his Jewish partner successfully infiltrated the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, starts and ends with other men’s handiwork. There were audible gasps in the audience at the Cannes Film Festival when a tableau of carnage from Gone with the Wind’s “Battle of Altanta” sceneblinked onto the screen, and quiet sniffles as a gut-churning montage of real-life hatred from the past two years closed it out. With this fiery work of righteous agitprop, Lee’s chosen task is to connect the rose-colored racism of the remote past to the shameless bigotry playing out on the streets of our immediate present.
He does so by splitting the difference and slipping back to the ‘70s, the era of perfectly manicured Afros, wide lapels, the greatest pairs of sunglasses ever forged, and a time in which the America’s social tides turned more violently than ever. It is in this combustible cultural moment that Lee launches his most charged rhetorical offensive since the live-wire Do the Right Thing, a call to action that doesn’t use its generous entertainment value to take the edge off of its fury, but rather to further sharpen it.”
Jennifer Fox’s THE TALE is a profound (and profoundly upsetting) portrait of the relationship between trauma and memory. a scripted feature that’s as true & unshakable & essential as The Act of Killing.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) May 24, 2018
Shelia O’Malley on The Tale for RogerEbert.Com:
“Can you just let me sit with my own memories?” This plea, from Jennifer (Laura Dern) to her mother (Ellen Burstyn), is a key moment in “The Tale,” an extraordinary and disturbing new film directed by Jennifer Fox, based on Fox’s own experience with childhood molestation. It’s key because “The Tale” is, in many ways, about memory, and memory’s unreliability and slipperiness. Memory can cloak trauma in another “better” narrative, sparing us until we’re ready to deal. Joan Didion famously wrote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” (Jennifer quotes this in “The Tale” during a lecture to her film students). Didion’s words are often recast as some self-help “all of our stories matter” pablum, but that’s not what Didion was getting at at all. Storytelling can be a healthy thing, or it can be a sinister thing. Everyone wants their own narrative to “make sense.” But our mind plays tricks on us, and what was used as protection for a traumatized child can begin to destroy the adult. What is amazing about Fox’s film (her first narrative feature, although she’s been making documentaries for years) is how it shows—visually—how memory operates, what it’s like to remember something. Normally, in films like this, you get flashbacks unfurling in a linear way, and the flashbacks, bit by bit, lead us up to the present. But that’s not how memory works. It’s much much messier than that.”
Nathan Rabin on Best Friends for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“Some combinations are magic. They mean something. Their intertwined names echo through the ages. John, Paul, George and Ringo. Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank. Borat and that hirsute, morbidly obese man. Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau.
Fifteen years into The Room phenomenon, Sestero has clearly and healthily accepted that his life and legacy, and the life and legacy of his handsome young Louisiana collaborator and compatriot from The Room will always be inextricably intertwined. So he did what Wiseau did to kick off The Room mania in the first place and wrote a movie for them to star in together.
As writer, producer and star, Sestero has helped create a movie that lives comfortably in the enormous shadow of The Room and everything that it has wrought, good and bad. He’s not trying to run away from the movie that made him and his co-star infamous. Instead he’s created a oddly charming sleeper that serves as both a spiritual sequel and a companion film to The Room, a sort of alternate-universe riff on Wiseau’s hysterical original.”
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) May 31, 2018
Scott Tobias on Who We Are Now for Variety:
“For a significant portion of “Who Are We Now,” an exemplary indie drama from writer-director Matthew Newton (“From Nowhere”), the lives of its two main characters never intersect, almost to the point where it feels like two short stories that are barely tethered together. This is a risky narrative strategy, to say the least, but it also reveals the depth of Newton’s commitment: He wants the audience to understand these two women completely — their jobs, their families, their turbulent emotional states — before they get to know each other. By the time that finally happens, the stakes are extraordinarily high and the performances, by Julianne Nicholson and Emma Roberts, have a combined power that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Low-concept, modestly scaled indies are always a hard sell, but authentic passion and a steady accumulation of detail sets “Who We Are Now” apart.”
COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS, ENEMIES,
In cooperation with @LWLies and @HarperCollinsUK, I have written a book. It is about vampire movies, which is to say it's about sex and death, but it's also about a lot of other things. It'll be available November 15: https://t.co/qMrmCQml2z pic.twitter.com/LGrOs2eLIb
— Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse) May 30, 2018
Noel Murray on The Twilight Zone’s I Sing The Body Electric on the occasion of HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 for The Verge:
“The novel [Fahrenheit 451] has been adapted multiple times, including by the French New Wave director François Truffaut in 1966, for his only English-language film. The new version stars Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan as one of the book-burners, whose uncertainty about his job puts him at odds with his boss (Shape of Water villain Michael Shannon), an anti-reading zealot. Bahrani — whose recent work includes the fiery social-issue dramas At Any Priceand 99 Homes — aims to connect Bradbury’s dark vision of the future with our own era, where people in power dismiss inconvenient information as seditious or “fake.”
“I Sing the Body Electric” has a significantly different outlook on technology and modernity from Fahrenheit 451. The story has more in common with Bradbury’s 1957 novel Dandelion Wine, which combines reminiscences of growing up in a middle American small town with elements of whimsical fantasy. Though the [Twilight Zone] episode shows some of the wild things robo-Grandma can do — like conjuring toys and games seemingly out of thin air — the overall focus is on how humans build our own needs and desires into our machines.”
Was watching James Cameron's Story Of Science Fiction with CG, impressing her by pointing out my friends who were interviewed. Then I blew her mind by noting that her own mother was an interviewee for a Matrix DVD feature, shot when she was six months pregnant with… CG. pic.twitter.com/OHTLoNisAk
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) May 24, 2018
Nathan Rabin on Mystery Team for Rotten Tomatoes Sub-Cult:
“During Sundance in 2009, I saw a low-budget independent film called Mystery Team (53%) from sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy and first-time director Dan Eckman. It’s a goofy riff on Encyclopedia Brown and the boy detective literary sub-genre about a trio of junior shamuses who find themselves exhilaratingly and terrifyingly immersed in a seamy underworld of sex, drugs, and murder when they’re tasked with solving a case just a tad more serious than the usual lost kitten, hopscotch dispute, or lunch sack fraud.
I liked pretty much everything about the scrappy, overachieving film, written by and starring hungry, young sketch and stand-up performers still in their mid-twenties, but I particularly loved the lead actor. He was funny. He was lovable. He possessed the ineffable quality known as charisma in great abundance. He was ridiculously good-looking in a boyish way that made it easy to buy him as an adorable, emotionally stunted eighteen-year-old, even if he himself was deep into his twenties. He was a terrific actor with a wonderfully expressive face equally suited for drama and comedy, and though Mystery Team was a broad, high-concept goofball comedy, he made its dramatic coming-of-age elements work.
He was, in other words, a star in the truest sense.”
Today I wrote about a drama about life on a French farm in World War I and I also ranked all the times Johnny Knoxville got hit in the balls. I contain multitudes. https://t.co/nzhsu07q9o
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) May 30, 2018
Keith Phipps on the “unrestored” version of 2001: A Space Odyssey for The Verge:
“Christopher Nolan has seen the future, and it looks a lot like the past. Nolan is one of a handful of directors who’s made no secret of his commitment to shooting movies on film for as long as possible, even as digital filmmaking becomes the default and maybe an inevitability. In the 2012 documentary Side By Side, an enlightening examination of the digital-versus-film divide produced and hosted by Keanu Reeves, even Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister seemed to think the end of film was near. “I will be one of the last guys shooting film,” he tells Reeves, “and Chris Nolan will be one of the last directors using film. But I’m certain that we’ll be using digital technology within the next 10 years.”
Six years later, Nolan seems to be doubling down, not only refusing to shoot digitally but turning the chance to see 2017’s Dunkirk in 70mm into a significant selling point. He’s also one of the driving forces behind what’s being billed as an “unrestored” 70mm edition of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey that’s currently playing in theaters. And perhaps not by accident, it’s providing a stunning reminder of how much life remains in the old ways of moviemaking.”
Genevieve Koski, Scott Tobias, Keith Phipps and Tasha Robinson on Deadpool 2 & Gremlins 2 for the Next Picture Show:
New episode! Inspired by DEADPOOL 2's self-aware fourth-wall-breaking and anarchic spirit, we look back at Joe Dante gleeful deconstruction of a studio franchise, 1990's GREMLINS 2. We consumed an entire lab full of Film Critic serum for this one…
— Next Picture Show (@NextPicturePod) May 29, 2018
New ep! In our DEADPOOL 2 vs GREMLINS 2 meta matchup, we talk how to break the fourth wall without losing an audience, when references are jokes and when they're just references, and the difference between a self-aware film and a self-aware character: https://t.co/hlAfezcY96 pic.twitter.com/SlnvchvFS2
— Next Picture Show (@NextPicturePod) May 31, 2018
Tasha Robinson on Joonas Suotamo, the actor now playing Chewbacca, for The Verge:
“When 31-year-old Finnish actor Joonas Suotamo first stepped into the role of Star Wars’ towering, hairy Wookiee character Chewbacca for 2015’s The Force Awakens, he repeatedly dodged press questions about which scenes he appeared in. Peter Mayhew, who originated the role in 1977’s A New Hope, was also playing Chewbacca in some scenes, but he was having mobility issues and using a cane [and] out of respect for Mayhew, he wanted to keep quiet on when exactly he stepped into the role. … I sat down with Suotamo in Chicago to talk about the secrets of how Chewbacca’s mask works, the script that lays out what Chewie is saying in English, and what most people assume about his costume.
TR: I’ve read that Irvin Kershner, director of The Empire Strikes Back, only wanted to interact with Peter Mayhew when he was fully in costume, that he wanted to see him as a Wookiee, not an actor. Have you encountered anything like that when playing the character?
JS: Oh my God, I’m so glad I was born in ’86! No! As I’ve told everyone, it’s a very hot piece of costume. It’s better the less time I spend in that, the more fresh I stay. So it’s never been an issue, and I hope it never will be.
TR: Is any part of the mask animatronic? Do you control everything about it?
JS: It’s all just mechanical. The lower jaw is pushed down by my actual jaw. When the mouth opens, it pulls the upper lip down, with a coil, into a snarl. It’s all mechanical. It’s actually kind of heavy, and my jaw is always sore after a day’s work if I have to do a lot of [vocalizing]. So every mouth opening is heavy work. The head is held together by Velcro and all kinds of things, and you’re pushing all of that down whenever [Chewbacca groan noise].”
For @RollingStone I talked to Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Joel Fields, and Joe Weisberg about #TheAmericans finale, the Stan scene, whether or not the ending is tragic, and the actors’ least favorite disguises. https://t.co/EDG1yrnbN5
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) May 31, 2018
Kate Erbland on Bill Holderman and Erin Simms, director and screenwriter respectively, of Book Club, for Indiewire:
“Collaboration came easy to the pair, which helped give first-time screenwriter Simms the push she needed to flex her writing muscles. “I really wanted Bill to write a movie from scratch,” Simms said. “I had never written anything, that was not part of my master plan. But when we had the idea, it was just because we were having so much fun working together, we thought why not? Why not also write a movie?”
The pair didn’t initially set out to write for anything else beyond just the joy they felt while in the process of working together. “When we were writing the movie, you don’t think the movie is actually going to get made, to be honest,” Simms said. “You’re just writing the movie because you want to. The rest is just a miracle.”
Simms catches herself. “I should rephrase that,” she said. “We worked at a production company where movies got made, so we didn’t think it was impossible or anything like that. We were writing it because we were just excited to write the script. I’m sure not many people can say that. They’re usually writing because they want a job and they want to make money. We already had jobs and just really loved the idea.”
Talked to John Cameron Mitchell, writer-director-star of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, about how his new punk alien romance HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES is a midnight movie, a 70s throwback, an Eastern mysticism trip, and a stealth bio of @neilhimself: https://t.co/Upnmup90sR
— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) May 31, 2018
Kate Erbland on the degree to which Hollywood misconduct allegations are effecting viewing habits for Indiewire:
“In the wake of the rise of #MeToo, Time’s Up, and a seemingly never-ending stream of allegations of sexual misconduct against some of Hollywood’s most powerful men, it’s natural to wonder just how much these stories have impacted the viewing habits of the public. According to a new survey: not by much, with only two (very notable) exceptions.
The Morning Consult recently polled polled 2,202 U.S. adults (both men and women) about whether or not various sexual misconduct allegations (from harassment to rape) against 20 men in the entertainment industry have changed their viewing habits. Per its own perimeters, the “survey asked respondents how much more likely they are to see a film or television series if its trailer included a specific actor, then gauged whether allegations of sexual misconduct would impact that decision.” Of the 20 men listed, including James Franco, Aziz Ansari, Casey Affleck, Jeffrey Tambor, and T.J. Miller, most survey respondents only listed the allegations of just two men as being able to alter their viewing habits: Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K.”
Keith Phipps on the evolution of Laura Dern, from Wild At Heart to The Tale for Vulture:
“[The Tale is] the latest in Dern’s still-growing category of revelatory performances and, like the others, it’s possible to trace its roots back to a turning-point performance. Some actors have careers easily divided into two phases: before and after a particular role. The film that gave Dern that role, Wild at Heart, hasn’t been very easy to see in recent years. Released in 1990, the David Lynch film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and hit American theaters at the height of Twin Peaks’ popularity. But it’s not currently available on any streaming services and has been in and out of print on physical media for years. (It will receive a long-overdue Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory, a company with a good track record of handling movies that might otherwise fall through the cracks, in August.) But revisiting the film confirms it was the role that pointed Dern toward a future playing complex, conflicted, difficult-to-defeat women.”
Matt Singer on why the theater is still the best way to see a movie for Screencrush:
“I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time 20 years ago on a pan-and-scan VHS. I hated it. Last night I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time on the big screen, and now I’m certain it’s among the handful of greatest films ever made. This does not feel like a coincidence. In fact, I’ve seen two wildly different movies in recent weeks that have both reminded me that while instantaneous access to titles on my computer or television is wonderful, the theater is still the best way to see a movie.
That all sounded like a bunch of marketing hooey to me — but it wasn’t.”
David Ehrlich on L3-37 from Solo: A Star Wars Story for Indiewire:
“The first ostensibly female droid to have a featured role in a Star Wars movie (“like you’d be able to find it!,” she wisecracks to someone looking for her off switch), and easily the most exciting droid to be introduced to the franchise since BB-8, L3 shows up and blows things wide open, like a blast from the Death Star detonating inside Alderaan’s core. The whole vibe changes from the moment she saunters onto screen, a silver giant walking on a pair of stilts that seem way too long for the rest of her makeshift body — it’s like the entire movie is suddenly jolted alive by the idea that it doesn’t have to limit itself to the job that it was designed to do.
A hodgepodge droid who pieced herself together from spare parts she took from other robots, L3 may have been assembled in a factory and programmed for a certain task, but this metal being has a plastic soul. Even in the (too) brief time that we spend with her in her capacity as Lando’s navigator, we see that she’s affected by the world around her in a way that none of the films other characters even can be, as they’re all frozen in the carbonite of the Star Wars canon (“Solo” is the first movie ever made where the robot is the only one who isn’t stuck at the bottom of the uncanny valley).
While Han, Lando, and even Chewie are being forced towards their destinies in a fatalistic tractor beam of nostalgia, L3 is charting a different course. And that’s not just because she doesn’t appear in the original trilogy, it’s also because the droid’s identity is defined by her ability and eagerness to decide it for herself.”
Charles Bramesco on why Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or for Frieze Magazine:
“There was a static charge in the air at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the currents of change as perceptible as any electrical shock. The first predominantly female Competition jury since 2014, a red-carpet stand-in demonstration from 82 legends of the industry protesting the disproportionate representation of men in the festival’s selection (just three films in competition were by female directors), the fliers informing attendees of the sexual harassment hotline to be dialed in the event of anything untoward — it all contributed to a sense of agreeable political upheaval. It was borne out once more by a fiery speech from Asia Argento, delivered as the festival closed on Saturday, condemning Harvey Weinstein while warning his sympathizers. ‘In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old’, she said. ‘This festival was his hunting ground.’
But when the Cate Blanchett-led jury took the stage at the Lumiere Theatre on Saturday evening to announce the recipients of this year’s awards, the Palme d’Or did not go to one of the few Competition films with a woman behind the camera, or even a film organized around a timely subject. Many of their other picks followed these through-lines: Alice Rohrwacher shared the Screenplay prize for her off-beat Happy as Lazzaro and Nadine Labaki took the third-most-prestigious Jury Prize for her drama Capharnaum, while Spike Lee’s incendiary BlacKkKlansman picked up the second-place Grand Prix.
But it was Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, an expertly realized, deeply moving portrait of a makeshift family of small-time grifters making do along the margins of their society, that came out on top.”
It happened again…
In case you missed any of the “fun” https://t.co/DRsCuQr40M
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) May 25, 2018