When the late, great website The Dissolve ended operations, it’s 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 (and occasionally other stuff) somewhere on the Internet.
These folks are talented and prolific, so please share the pieces we missed in the comments!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: With a pretty strong representation of former-Dissolvers at TIFF (I count Scott Tobias, Noel Murray, Mike D’Angelo, Sam Adams, Kate Erbland, Matt Singer and Charles Bramesco as TIFF-ing to one degree or another) and some reports already trickling in, I thought I’d wait until next week to gather some of those reports closer to the end of the fest. Until then, I thought I’d look on the bright side of The Dissolve dissolving (which, btw, still hurts…) and spotlight a silver-lining to that dark-grey sky; the fact that these folks are writing about all aspects of pop-culture again, not just movies!
Noel Murray spotlights his Top 5 pop-culture items of the week in his ongoing feature for Rolling Stone:
“1. Stephen Colbert eats Oreos and talks to the Vice President on The Late Show (CBS)
“Given the versatility that the former Daily Show correspondent showed as the host of The Colbert Report, no one should’ve doubted that he could shed his old comic persona and slip right into David Letterman’s old seat. Still, it’s remarkable how quickly and firmly he’s grabbed the reins…But the real revelation of his first week at the new gig has been the strength of his interviews with politicians. Freed from having to play the role of the cartoon conservative, he’s been honest and probing, trying to push Jeb Bush off his Republican-party talking points one night and then later delivering one of this week’s most powerful stretches of TV when he spoke with Vice President Joe Biden about personal tragedies and big career decisions. Letterman’s “cut the crap” attitude had its own humanizing effect on public figures, but Colbert’s taking a different tack, actively letting his guard down to get his guests to do the same. He may be following the same late-night talk show format as everyone else, but if he keeps producing Biden-quality moments, his Late Show is going to be the only one right now that’s a must-see.”
Nathan Rabin covers his first comic book as an entry for My World of Flops for AV Club:
“13 years ago, being the president of Marvel apparently afforded so much downtime that Bill Jemas, the company’s controversial head, decided to try his hand at writing a comic book of his own. The comic book was called Marville (a tortured play on words combining Marvel and the young Superman TV show Smallville), and it was the subject of a stunt called U-Decide where fans would decide whether Jemas’ new Marville, cult comic writer Peter David’s revamped Captain Marvel, or a Batman parody called Ultimate Adventures would survive…For Marville at least, Jemas transformed the powerful comic-book company into a vanity press for himself. The artwork and lettering and coloring may have been professional, but the writing betrayed the project’s fundamentally amateurish nature.”
Charles Bramesco on the Amazon Prime series Difficult People for Random Nerds:
“As television has matured over the past few decades, the medium hasn’t abandoned the “don’t be a piece of shit” mindset, only interfaced with it in new ways. The recent wave of antihero-driven dramas find the poetry of common life in the unending struggle not to be a piece of shit, even when piece-of-shit-being may seem to be in the undeniable nature of a character….Elsewhere on the internet, another emerging content-streaming behemoth has taken a refreshingly novel approach to the question of accepting and resisting the piece-of-shit lifestyle. As its title may suggest, Hulu’s new series Difficult People does not revolve around characters who spend every day making a conscious effort to do and spread good throughout the world. The lightly fictionalized versions of themselves that stars Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner play on the stellar new comedy fully embrace their own piece-of-shittiness, using it as a power source in the same way that Superman draws strength from our yellow sun.”
Rachel Handler continues to deploy her pop-culture estimations and witticisms on weekends for Vanity Fair (most all of these are worth going through but here’s a taste of Rachel checking in on what Amy Schumer is up to):
“The offscreen activities of famous actors are an ongoing source of public fascination. What do our favorite celebrities do when they’re not being celebrities? Are they all best friends? Do they secretly hate one another? Do they run into each other in separate groups at brunch and just decide to push their tables together even though they don’t know each other super well but it’d be more awkward not to?
Here’s a possibility that we’ve not yet considered: Our favorite celebrities rent out each other’s apartments, then root through each other’s things and eat each other’s frozen birthday cakes. In other words: They are just like us! At least according to Amy Schumer, who, last night, told Stephen Colbert a fabulous tale of squatting, spying and cake-stealing at the apartment of one Jake Gyllenhaal.”
Scott Tobias has reviewed all 10 episodes of Netflix’s Narcos (you can follow along and check in with his reviews as you watch the show!) for The New York Times:
“How do you tell the story of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug kingpin in history? That question has stymied writers and filmmakers for years, because there’s simply too much story to tell: about the rise of Colombia (and specifically Escobar’s Medellín cartel) as a chief exporter of narcotics, about police corruption and political influence, about cocaine culture in Miami and around the United States, and about the drug war that continues to metastasize across the Mexican border and beyond. The best solution so far has been to tackle it in pieces, as in the exemplary ESPN “30 for 30” documentary “The Two Escobars,” which focused on Escobar’s love of soccer and strategic investment in community, or in Mark Bowden’s book “Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw,” which focused on the long and morally dubious pursuit that finally led to Escobar’s death in 1993. (Markedly less successful: Vinnie Chase in “Medellín,” the fictional fiasco-within-a-show on HBO’s “Entourage.”)
Netflix’s Narcos has the real estate to cover the vast scope of Escobar’s operation, the impossible effort by law enforcement agencies to shut it down and the countless subplots spinning off those larger initiatives. The trick is to tell the story without allowing the man’s ever-expanding sphere of influence to spill out like a gelatinous narrative blob.”
Genevieve Koski on the history behind Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin’s lost concert documentary, for Vox: (Okay, so this is about movies but it’s also about music and Genevieve has started writing for Vox now and it’s awesome and you should just read it)
“Amazing Grace won’t be showing at this year’s TIFF, just as it did not show at the just-ended Telluride Film Festival, where it was supposed to make its world premiere, and will not show at October’s Chicago Film Festival, which also planned to show the film.
Why? Franklin herself has stepped in to prevent it, with a Colorado judge granting her an injunction against the Telluride fest that prevented the screening, an injunction that kicked in just hours before the film’s first showing. The injunction was granted on September 4. Four days later, anticipating further legal action, TIFF followed suit in cancelling the screening, as did Chicago.
Why all the hubbub over what looks like an otherwise uncontroversial recording of a decades-old recording session? To answer that, we must first travel back to 1972.”