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 if we missed a piece, share it with us in the comments!
Sheila O’Malley on Mr. Roosevelt for RogerEbert.com:
“[Noël] Wells is an established actress and writer. With a recurring role on “Master of None,” and a brief stint on “Saturday Night Live,” she also recently played Jessica Williams’ best friend in “The Incredible Jessica James,” and was funny support staff to the lead. In her first film as a writer-director, she presents a world she clearly knows well. From Texas originally, Wells filmed “Mr. Roosevelt” around Austin, with the clear familiarity of a local. Austin residents will probably pick up more of her commentary than outsiders, but it’s clear what she’s getting at when she shows Emily’s disappointment at the closing of her favorite coffee shop. Austin is gentrifying.”
David Ehrlich on Mr. Roosevelt for IndieWire:
“Among the many pleasures of “Mr. Roosevelt,” a low-key landmark in the cinéma du Girl with a Cracked iPhone Screen, is that it can be enjoyed with the full confidence of knowing that it won’t feel like “Garden State” in 10 years. Written and directed by Noël Wells, whose dismissal from “Saturday Night Live” now seems to be a blessing in disguise, “Mr. Roosevelt” is a sweet and shaggy comedy about someone who needs to renovate their idea of home. It’s a reminder that the 21st century is going to be full of coming-of-age films about 30-year-olds, and it’s compelling evidence that that might be alright.”
Tasha Robinson on Justice League for The Verge:
“[…]Justice League often feels fractured. Whedon’s reshoots are sometimes painfully obvious, as when Flash and Cyborg share a brief personal moment in a graveyard that looks as cheap as a first-season Buffy the Vampire Slayer set. While those scenes can seem roughly interpolated and out-of-place, though, they often offer the film’s most meaningful character moments and flashes of humor and humanity. A quick gag involving Aquaman reveals more about him than the entire rest of the film’s two-hour runtime.“
Matt Singer on Justice League for ScreenCrush:
“There’s a moment early in Justice League where the score swells, and it’s not just composer Danny Elfman’s music: It’s Danny Elfman’s Batman music from the classic Tim Burton movies of the 1990s. That was a simpler time, particularly for superhero movies; the new Batman, played by Ben Affleck, fights flying alien demons instead of Crime Alley thugs. But Elfman’s music still works perfectly in a modern context. His familiar notes gave me chills.
The rest of Justice League gave me chills of a different kind; the kind you feel when you receive bad news about a sick relative, or after you quickly gulp down a big glass of milk and suddenly remember the carton expired two weeks ago.”
Mike D’Angelo on On The Beach At Night Alone for The A.V. Club:
“It’s a raw, open wound of a movie, in its hunkered-down way, and Hong [Sang-soo] doesn’t always seem to be wholly comfortable handling emotions that aren’t strictly mediated by social niceties. An early scene in Germany sees Young-hee and her friend speaking stilted English while dining with a couple (Mark Peranson and Bettina Steinbrügge), and the movie as a whole feels similarly stilted. There’s a sober self-consciousness at work here that’s less invigorating than Hong’s usual playful gamesmanship.
He’s still playing games, though, in an unprecedently surreal way.”
Mike D’Angelo on Last Flag Flying for Las Vegas Weekly:
“Though the characters’ names have been changed, and director Richard Linklater (Boyhood, the Before trilogy, etc.) would prefer that audiences ignore the connection, Last Flag Flying is essentially a sequel to 1973’s The Last Detail, in which two Navy lifers escort a fellow sailor to the prison where he’ll serve a draconian eight-year sentence for stealing $40.
[…]While Linklater’s decision to decouple Last Flag Flying from its predecessor makes sense, given that none of the original actors could realistically reprise their parts (Young died in 2001, and neither Nicholson nor Quaid has appeared onscreen in at least seven years), doing so robs the story of much of its poignancy.”
David Ehrlich on Wonder for IndieWire:
” “Wonder” is as manipulative as movies get, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a story needs to steer you; sometimes a story tells you what to feel, but redeems itself by virtue of the sincerity with which it shows why you should feel that way. In much the same way that fables and fairy tales exist to making a particular point, subtlety would be counterintuitive to the very nature of what this film is trying to do. And really, no one should be expecting Chekhov from an inspirational tear-jerker about a deformed little kid whose parents are played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.”
Mike D’Angelo on Wonder for Las Vegas Weekly:
“Directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Wonder deftly avoids many of the mawkish pitfalls endemic to this sort of inspirational story. Characters are neither one-dimensionally virtuous nor villainous, and the film expands to consider, for example, the frustrations of Auggie’s older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), who understands why she’s not the center of attention in her family and feels guilty about resenting that anyway. But the movie also engineers an improbable feel-good ending for just about every character, and the narrative tidiness undermines the preceding complexity.”
David Ehrlich on The Breadwinner for IndieWire:
“A deeply anguished story that’s told with the same vivid style as Cartoon Saloon’s two previous features, “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea,” “The Breadwinner” triumphs with a sense of emotional sobriety that strikes far deeper than anything that passes for children’s entertainment in this part of the world — it may be aimed at (older) kids, but it’s certain to hit their parents twice as hard.
Executive produced by Angelina Jolie and adapted from Deborah Ellis’ 2000 novel of the same name, “The Breadwinner” is immediately set apart by its setting.”
Nathan Rabin on The Emoji Movie for Control Nathan Rabin:
“T.J Miller is a drunken, obnoxious, pot-smoking, belligerent, profane, disgusting, self-destructive, deeply problematic piece of shit. I write that as a fan. That’s his whole shtick: he’s a funny, talented asshole but holy fucking shit is he an asshole.
[…]That’s why it’s perverse to cast Miller as a character whose defining characteristic is that he’s so overflowing with sincere, genuine and excitement for everything going on around him that he can’t help but betray his sour-puss digital blood line and be crazy expressive.”
Matt Singer on I Love You, Daddy for ScreenCrush:
“The same day The Orchard shelved I Love You, Daddy, many film critics received screener copies of the movie that were intended for awards consideration. They reveal that even if it won’t actually be released in 2017, I Love You, Daddy is still the film of the year. Not the best film of the year, mind you. It is most definitely not that. But if you had to pick one movie to represent the turd burger that is 2017, you’d be hard pressed to find a better summation of the toxic dude behavior that finally brought down its author and many other abusers at the upper echelons of entertainment, politics, and business.”
Sam Adams on Faces Places for Slate:
“There’s another, more practical reason [Agnes] Varda shares the director’s credit. As Faces Places reveals, her eyesight has deteriorated to the point that she can only see the world as a vague blur. The camera, which in Gleaners came to seem like an extension of her own body, is now held by other hands. It’s gutting to realize that you’re watching what may be the last film (half-)made by one of the 20th century’s greatest filmmakers, but there’s nothing ponderous or funereal about the movie itself.”
Mike D’Angelo on Jim & Andy… for The A.V. Club:
“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond—Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton (yes, that’s the actual title) is a documentary constructed from behind-the-scenes footage shot for Man On The Moon, the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic starring Jim Carrey. This material, intended for the usual DVD extras and so forth, proved to be so abrasive and potentially alienating that it was never used, and has been sitting on the shelf for the past two decades. Carrey, a Kaufman fanatic, had obsessively campaigned for the role; once he won it, he wasn’t about to relinquish it.”
Scott Tobias on Jim & Andy… for NPR:
“Jim & Andy makes a tight assemblage of Carrey’s antics during the shoot, from mild irritations like blasting ear-splitting music in the make-up trailer to major headaches, like his working relationship with wrestler and Kaufman foe Jerry Lawler, whom Carrey provoked into violence just like Kaufman had. Is Man on the Moon a better film for Carrey being Kaufman rather than merely doing his best imitation when the cameras are rolling? It’s impossible to know, but Jim & Andy makes the persuasive argument that Carrey’s commitment to the role allowed everyone else in the production to understand and appreciate Kaufman better than they might have otherwise.”
David Ehrlich on Brimstone & Glory for IndieWire:
“Remember the first 10 minutes of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” when Hushpuppy was just running around with sparklers and the music was blaring and you were profoundly moved for reasons you couldn’t quite understand? Well, Viktor Jakovleski’s “Brimstone & Glory” is essentially the feature-length adaptation of that feeling. Produced and scored by “Beasts” mastermind Benh Zeitlin, this euphoric documentary is a veritable orgy of lights and sounds, a pyroclastic symphony of explosions in the sky that makes you happy to be alive, even if you’re not entirely sure why.”
I didn't see the other HOBBIT films after I fell asleep during the first one and realized, you know what, I don't have to do this to myself.
— Kate Erbland (@katerbland) November 13, 2017
Nathan Rabin on Space Jam (1996)…’s Forgotbuster entry for Exploiting the Archive:
“For the very first entry in Forgotbusters, I chose a movie from my childhood that I genuinely thought people had forgotten about: Space Jam. I foolishly imagined that the Michael Jordan vehicle was a smash at the time of its release but that subsequent generations would reject it as a cynical abomination that both desecrated beloved pop-culture staples and functioned as a 90 minute ad for sneakers and its star’s enormously lucrative personal brand.
Nathan Rabin on Rock A Doodle (1992) for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“Rock A Doodle was marketed, poorly, as an animated musical about the adventures of a cocky, Elvis Presley-like rooster. This led me to naively assume that that I was in for a, well, animated musical about the adventures of a cocky, Elvis Presley-like rooster. That is so not the case. Not since Sidekicks have I seen such an egregious bait and switch in a 1992 children’s film I’ve written about for this site.”
Nathan Rabin on Tougher Than Leather (1988) for My World of Flops:
“When I interviewed Rick Rubin a long time ago, he gave Tougher Than Leather credit for anticipating the wave of socially conscious black films of the late 1980s like Boyz in the Hood, Juice and Menace II Society but he was really making a shitty Blaxploitation movie fifteen years too late. Rubin’s film wasn’t ahead of the times: he was behind the times, and his Blaxploitation/art-film/rapsploitation hybrid proved singularly unpalatable, particularly to its target audience of Run-DMC fans.
Tougher Than Leather is the worst kind of vehicle. It made me hate something that I have historically loved in Run-DMC.”
Nathan Rabin on Over the Top (1987) for Cannonvember:
“According to Electric Boogaloo, Mark Hartley’s wildly entertaining documentary on the rise and fall of Cannon films, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had a strong strategy for luring Sylvester Stallone, one of the biggest and least comprehensible movie stars of the era, into starring in the 1987 inspirational arm wrestling drama Over the Top. They simply offered the superstar more money than anyone had ever been paid to be in a movie.”
Kate Erbland interviews Marianna Palka for IndieWire:
“She always knows what roles she’s going to play in her features, and she penned the lead role of Jill – a seemingly average housewife who suddenly snaps and begins to behave like a dog, much to the chagrin of her family – for herself.
“I feel like there’s skin in the game if I do it that way,” she said of taking on roles in her own films. “I’m not just asking people to go there, the actors feel like they’re taking risks and I’m taking risks. We’re all in it together.” “
Kate Erbland interviews Jason Mitchell for IndieWire:
“ “One day I get this call from Dee [Rees] saying, ‘you got to be a part of this film, I really want you,’” Mitchell said. “I was totally down, but I also sort of heard through my agents, and through Dee later, that I was at the top of her wish list. It was a big deal for me. I couldn’t believe that with such heavy material, that somebody was like, ‘He’s the guy that’s going to carry it.’”
[…]When “Mudbound” audiences first meet the entire Jackson family, they’re preparing to send Ronsel off to war, but it’s not just his parents Florence (Mary J. Blige) and Hap (Rob Morgan) who are readying to say goodbye, it’s also his siblings and other members of their community. ”
Matthew Dessem interviews Julie Iovine and Bonnie Bertram, “The Spy Reporters Who Broke the James Toback Story 28 Years Ago”, for Slate:
“Slate: Let’s talk about how this article came to be. Where did you each get the idea to write about Toback? How did you end up working together?
Julie Iovine: […]Toback, in just kind of the classic entrée story, [on the] Upper West Side, hit me up on the curb outside of a [copy center]—I think that’s one of his places—and said I had a look, [and that] he was making a movie. “Here’s my Directors Guild card, and here’s my number. Call me up, I’d like to talk to you about casting” or something.
[…]Bonnie Bertram: Yeah, I was working at Premiere, and a friend of mine called me and said, “Hey, this movie producer tried to pick up my roommate. Have you ever heard of James Toback?” So I asked around the office and people were like, “Oh my God, he’s a lech, you shouldn’t call him back.” So I called her back. And then he came up to me—I think it was like a week later—just by coincidence, at Fairway Market.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Christopher Plummer for Vulture:
“Ebenezer Scrooge is a rather classic character, already played by George C. Scott and Michael Caine. In what way does your performance diverge from what’s come before?
The character of Scrooge from Susan Coyne’s script is original because the dialogue comes from her and not Dickens himself. When you read his book, you can see her lines as they were actually written, and there you go. But most of this is conversation, modern-day conversation about how Scrooge can help one writer work through writer’s block.”
David Ehrlich interviews Don Hertzfeldt for IndieWire:
“When did you first realize that you wanted to return to these characters?
I recorded my niece candidly for “World of Tomorrow” in December 2013 when she was four and I was on my way to see her again exactly one year later. The film was still a month away from premiering and I was mainly just curious to see what I’d get with a new set of recordings. I learned the first time that it’s foolish to have very much planned until I know what sort of audio I get out of her.”
Sheila O’Malley on Kristen Stewart for The Sheila Variations:
“You cannot take your eyes off of Kristen Stewart. Even when she is just buried in her phone.
In Personal Shopper, she is depressive, intense, thoughtful. It’s interior work. This is not an expressive character. She dresses like she’s a teenage boy, in ratty sweaters, sneakers, wool caps pulled down, a blunt-edged ponytail sticking out of the back of her head. But in one extraordinary sequence, filmed almost in one take, she tries on a dress hanging in the closet of the high-profile woman she assists. She is not supposed to be doing this.”
Sheila O’Malley on “Rules of the Sex/Love Game to Keep In Mind, Thanks to Howard Hawks” (TW: sexual assault) for The Sheila Variations:
“I have been thinking a lot about this line, which shows up in three of Howard Hawks’ films: To Have and Have Not, Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo. Clearly it had great meaning for him. It has always had great meaning for me too. It puts in plain words the problem, and also the solution. It seems as though the line SHOULD be, “I’m easy. All you have to do is ask me.” But that’s not the sentiment at all, not really. The line forces you to think about sexual dynamics and how it SHOULD work.
[…]Expressing your sexuality needs consent. Otherwise you’re not expressing your sexuality at all.
In other words: in Howard Hawks’ words: “I’m hard to get. Just ask me.” Who knows, I might even say Yes.”
Scott Tobias on how “Directors Engage With Living History” for Variety:
“Many of the year’s director candidates have made films that reflect the tenor of the times, yet approach social commentary from different angles, from the historical bent of “Mudbound,” to Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit,” and the complementary visions of Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” to the modern provocation of “Get Out” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Then there’s Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying,” which brings the Vietnam and Iraq wars together, each haunting the veterans who fought in them. None of these directors could have anticipated the tumult of Trump’s America, but they’ve hit it in stride.”
Charles Bramesco asks and answers “Questions We Have After Watching Michael Shannon’s Baffling Furry Christmas Movie” for Vulture:
“What does Michael Shannon think alcohol does to the human body?
Academy Award nominee and red-carpet sensation Michael Shannon steps in for Pottersville’s lead role of kindly shop proprietor Maynard, the kind of swell who can’t help but let a financially struggling mom make her purchases on credit. He’s pretty much George Bailey, but paired with the intense, unsettling visage of Michael Shannon. That generous streak — along with the dag-blasted economy, a Big Theme this film seems aware of in a vague, far-off sense — has left him in dire fiscal straits of his own, and all it takes is one bad day to drive him off the deep end.”
I'll take Michael Shannon saving Christmas by pretending to be Bigfoot over whatever the hell Kirk Cameron thought he was accomplishing. https://t.co/JMnech73X9
— Craig J. Clark (@Hooded_Werewolf) November 15, 2017
David Ehrlich on “Rotten Tomatoes’ New Facebook Show” for IndieWire:
“Sure, there’s a chance that this idea could backfire on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s a chance that people won’t have the patience to see how a new film is faring, that they might pop over to a rival service like Metacritic or — God forbid — google the title of a new movie + the word “review.” But Rotten Tomatoes has spent the last 10 years ensuring that won’t happen; you can’t expect Rotten Tomatoes to inspire consumers to put in the effort when the entire point of Rotten Tomatoes is to make it so that consumers don’t have to put in the effort.
Whatever their intentions, the site trained readers not to seek out individual critics, and now they are taking full advantage of that.”
Genevieve Koski, Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias on Ghost World and Lady Bird for episodes 102 and 103 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Tobias: “So, incredibly, this film has been out for 16 years, Ghost World, which just ages me horribly. But I’m curious what your history is with the film, and have the times changed, or what?”
[…]Robinson: “One of the things that kind of surprised me revisiting it is how many of these elements still feel the same because they’re so much about nostalgia and about being outside of the world. I mean, the whole garage sale scene where a bunch of sad, obsessive collectors are uncomfortably clinging to the detritus of their collections and selling them to each other. The 50’s diner that is not particularly 50’s but is married to a very fake nostalgia — those things have not changed over 16 years at all.”
[…]Koski: “I kind of had a ‘[The] Graduate experience’ — to throw back to our last discussion — watching this again, in that I was sympathizing with the adult characters this time around: Steve Buscemi’s character, in particular. Also, the thing that’s changed, is I have, since that first viewing, read Ghost World — reread it just before this. And I think because, now that I am familiar with the source material and can see the ways that it was changed by Clowes himself, who co-wrote this, that even though I like this movie a lot, and I really do like Buscemi in it and his storyline, there is a part of me that is mourning the fact that this is not really the teen girl friendship story that it seems like it might be. It’s much more Enid’s story than the story of Enid and Becky.”
Koski: “It’s my favorite movie of the year so far, easily. This is one of those movies that, it’s hard for me to talk about because this movie feels like it was made especially for me. God, even just preparing for this podcast, I kept welling up, just even thinking about this movie again, so I don’t know how useful I’m going to be. But-“
Robinson: “Your mike cover is exactly the same color as the cast that she wears on her arm for roughly 50% of the movie.”
Koski: “Yes, that’s the main reason I identify with her.”
Robinson and Tobias: [Laughter]
Tasha Robinson joins the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast on Justice League for NPR:
“You know, a lot of these heroes are kind of my childhood heroes — the Saturday morning cartoon heroes that I grew up with. So, for me, it’s kind of fun to see the grown-up versions of them in a way that, I think, people who aren’t necessarily as invested in these characters already, I think are going to have more of a problem with this film, especially the way it just completely glosses over huge patches of important things about them. For me, I don’t need an Aquaman origin story, I don’t need to linger on his past, I’m fine with ‘Oh hey, bytheway, youwerethekingofAtlantisandyouwererejectedandyoufeelreallybadaboutitandwe’rejustgonnamoveon, bye.’ Which makes for a very crowded, rushed movie, because there’s so much going on here. But by and large, I’m okay with the stuff that it skips.”