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 The Shape of Water for RogerEbert.com:
“In James Whale’s 1935 film “The Bride of Frankenstein,” the monster (Boris Karloff) says mournfully, “Alone: bad. Friend: good!” That’s what Guillermo del Toro’s latest film “The Shape of Water” is all about, the loneliness of those born before their time, born different. “The Shape of Water” doesn’t cohere into the fairy tale promised by the dreamy opening. It makes its points with a jackhammer, wielding symbols in blaring neon. The mood of swooning romanticism is silly or moving, depending on your perspective. (I found it to be both.)”
Sheila O’Malley on Come Swim for The Sheila Variations:
“Kristen Stewart’s 17-minute short film, Come Swim, is a collage piece, filled with strange and powerful images that resonate and echo, all accompanied by repetitive whispers, giggles, gurgles, the sound of water. Lapping waves, a pouring downpour, gurgles, roaring, rushing. It opens with a frankly terrifying image of a massive black wave rearing up in stark and incredibly slow slo-mo. The editing of the short is superb, chopping up the action, flashing-forward, flashing back.”
Scott Tobias on The Disaster Artist for NPR:
“With his winning adaptation of The Disaster Artist, director/star James Franco follows the model of Tim Burton’s biopic Ed Wood, approaching Wiseau with a delicate balance of affectionate mockery and a heartfelt appreciation for his creative passion. It would be unforgivably mean-spirited for Franco merely to point and laugh, so instead he casts Wiseau as a Hollywood outsider who chose to defy the gatekeepers and pursue his cinematic dreams on his own dime.”
Sam Adams on Wonder Wheel for Slate:
“The most sympathetic reading of Wonder Wheel is that it’s deliberately staged as the work of a novice playwright, populated with overdrawn characters and overheated situations. The scenes in Ginny’s apartment, which she shares with her husband, Humpty (Jim Belushi) and, eventually, his estranged daughter, Carolina (Juno Temple), play like a regional production of Tennessee Williams, often filmed in long, mobile takes as if Vittorio Storaro’s camera has just wandered onstage. At one point, Belushi brushes his fingers along the underside of his chin and flicks them forward as if he’s just come from a seminar on working-class gestures.”
Mike D’Angelo on Loveless for The A.V. Club:
“Alyosha, meanwhile, remains offscreen, unremarked upon, and as he keeps failing to reappear—without any suggestion that something has happened to him—it seems possible that Zvyagintsev is masterfully employing the kid as a form of negative space. What a bold conceptual move it would have been to represent the psychic damage that a toxic marriage inflicts on children by simply removing the child from the movie, with no explanation and neither of the parents ever noticing.
Zvyagintsev has something more conventional in mind, it turns out: family meltdown as allegory for national crisis.”
Matthew Dessem on Coco…as “Someone Who Watched Day of the Dead by Mistake” for Slate:
“Usually, Pixar’s more mature themes are presented in such a way that they can be gateways for important conversations between parents and children. But their new Day of the Dead-themed film, Day of the Dead, takes this trend entirely too far. Ris de veau is one thing, but building an entire film around various extremely minimalist preparations of ris de l’homme is so misguided that it’s almost a laugh, even if the film’s heartwarming central story of a zombie learning to love is classic Pixar territory.”
The Olaf short is being removed from Coco, and being added to the Republican tax bill.
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) December 2, 2017
Charles Bramesco on Voyeur for The Guardian:
“Over the years, Foos peeped on and enthusiastically masturbated to hundreds of unwitting strangers as they engaged in every coital act under the sun.
[…]Having dedicated his life to the documentation of human behavior in its most truthful state, Talese was practically jealous of Foos’s untainted conditions. To put it mildly, their dynamic was not conducive to the kind of objective detachment that makes for a responsible profile.”
David Ehrlich on Voyeur for IndieWire:
“For most of its running time, “Voyeur” appears to share Talese’s enthusiasm, digging into Foos’ demented experiments like his journals are the Pentagon Papers. In fact, the first hour feels like the movie that Foos spent his whole life praying that somebody might make about him.
He’s front and center, an affable self-aggrandizer whose childhood obsession with his aunt Catherine spurred an insatiable lust to look at forbidden things. At some point along the way, that perversion dovetailed with a desire to play God.”
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound (2007) for Werewolf News:
“Right off the bat, The Devil’s Hound puts the wrong furry foot forward by claiming that “The events that follow take place in the near future,” which doesn’t seem all that necessary since there’s nothing in it that’s even vaguely futuristic. (And considering it was released in 2007, the odds are good that its “near future” has already come to pass.) It also doesn’t waste any time in revealing its poorly designed title creature, which looks like a white, long-haired yeti.”
Nathan Rabin on Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa (2002) for This Looks Terrible! :
“Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa is such a shitty bait and switch that it doesn’t even feature any fucking Santa. Oh, sure, we see a silhouette of the man in red, but we do not see the man himself. Finally, the title is inaccurate because Santa, as we know him, is largely the creation of Coca-Cola’s marketers.
This brings us to the animation. Imagine the very worst computer animation you’ve ever seen. Now multiply that awfulness by a thousand times and you still only have a vague sense of eyeball-peeling hideousness of the animation.”
At long last, Nathan Rabin on Theodore Rex (1995) for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“I’ve been contemplating writing about Theodore Rex ever since I decided to make a de-contextualized still image of a somber-looking Theodore Rex, his arm in a sling, standing alongside a futuristic Whoopi Goldberg at a ceremony, a permanent fixture of the site.
Why did I decide to pay tribute to Theodore Rex in just about every piece that posts on Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place? I suppose the randomness appealed to me initially. I also liked how melancholy the whole tableau seemed: it feels so wrong and yet so right to see an anthropomorphic dinosaur and wacky wisecracking lady cop look so positively funereal.”
Kate Erbland interviews Kate Winslet for IndieWire:
“[…][F]or Kate Winslet, her latest role came with a different kind of problem: She really didn’t like her character.
“I think I had to accept quite early on, that I was going to feel profoundly irritated by Ginny, all of the time,” Winslet said. “And, also, that I had to stay the right side of the line with her.”
Set on Coney Island in the 1950’s, Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” follows Winslet’s Ginny, a perennially disappointed housewife who sees an opportunity to change her fortunes when she falls for a handsome local lifeguard (Justin Timberlake).”
David Ehrlich interviews Dario Marianelli for IndieWire:
“Marianelli also revealed that Wright gave him an old, scratchy photograph of Churchill for inspiration, or bait. “There was an energy in that photo: Churchill leaning forward, some motion blur; the way it was framed, that translated in something quite propulsive.” Then, in a sneaky move that helped his longtime partner understand how well the film was going to work, Wright confessed to Marianelli that the photo was actually of Gary Oldman in makeup. (“I found that quite wonderful.”)”
Matt Singer interviews Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for ScreenCrush:
“First of all, how did you guys discover The Room? Did you see the film in its first theatrical run? Was it the infamous Los Angeles billboard?
Scott Neustadter: […]Franco and I had a very similar story where we knew about the billboard. We lived in L.A., it was up forever. If it was a regular movie, it wouldn’t still be up, so none of us had any idea what that was. We read The Disaster Artist; but I sort of stopped reading a couple chapters in because I was like, “I need to see this thing now.”
[…]Michael H. Weber: So, I love the book. You know, Room fans are a very small subculture of movie fandom. This movie has to play for the vast majority of people who’ve never even heard of The Room, so I waited until after we wrote the first draft to even watch the movie.”
Kate Erbland on a system of power-abusing men for IndieWire:
“Start telling people that a show or movie or business can’t possibly exist without the skills of this person, and people start thinking it’s true. Once established, it becomes Hollywood lore. What will we do without Weinstein, or a creative genius like Lasseter, or a talented actor like Spacey?
One possible answer: Who cares? The real loss belongs to people whose talents were quashed by a toxic system built on hero worship, creating another cycle in which absolute power corrupts absolutely. When so much of the industry relies on these Midas men, both for their output as well as for feeding the mythos of a self-made star, they’ve had the power to bend the world to their wills.”
Sheila O’Malley on Tiffany Haddish for The Sheila Variations:
“The only person I could compare her to – and even there it’s not an exact comparison, because how could it be? – is Madeline Kahn … and I don’t compare anyone to Madeline Kahn. But Haddish’s work is as far “out there” as Kahn’s. Haddish is as out of her mind as Kahn was. You can’t LEARN to do that. You can’t LEARN to trust your instincts to that insane degree. You can learn to trust your instincts MORE, you can learn to be more fearless, to encourage yourself to “be bigger” … but you can’t learn how to do what Kahn did, what Haddish does. You have to just be able to do it, to give yourself the ultimate permission to go as “out there” as you see fit.”
Matthew Dessem’s obituary for Rance Howard for Slate:
“Rance Howard and Ron Howard actually made their film debut in the same movie, though Ron was only two at the time: a 1956 Western called Frontier Woman. As his sons’ careers as child actors took off, Rance Howard appeared alongside them, taking guest roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Dayswith Ron and a recurring role on Gentle Ben with Clint. As Ron turned to directing, his father continued collaborating with him, co-writing and appearing in his son’s feature debut as a director, the Roger Corman production Grand Theft Auto.”
Nathan Rabin on Philip Seymour Hoffman for Exploiting the Archives:
“When I worked for The Dissolve, we had a column called Careerview, where we’d write about every film an actor or director made.
[…]The Philip Seymour Hoffman Careerview was tough because of the enormous amount of work it entailed, but also because of the unrelentingly dark and pessimistic and sad nature of Hoffman’s work. He was in one brutal, tough, gutsy masterpiece after another. He was a fucking actor in the truest sense of the word, a man whose incredible body work helps elucidate the wonders and horrors of the human condition. “
Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, Scott Tobias, and Keith Phipps on State & Main and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for episodes 104 and 105 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Phipps: “All this stuff is really funny in theory, but watching it, just doesn’t work. I may be the outlier here, so I don’t want to be all about my dissent from this film that everyone else loves, but it’s just not…”
Robinson: “Welcome to my world, Keith Phipps.”
Phipps: “I know, I don’t want to be, you know, Tasha Robinson.”
Koski: “Don’t want to be all Tasha about it.”
Robinson: “But you are being all Tasha about it, and I kinda love it, because it’s pretty rare that I get to sit at a table where I liked the film more than–I’m not entirely unused to being the only person at the table to like the film, but I am unused to being part of a group of people who loved the film, and having somebody else at the table loathe it.”
Koski: “I loved it. I was thoroughly enamored of this movie, in part because it sort of subverts elements of a type of movie I generally do not like, which is the revenge movie, and I think that this movie has a lot of really interesting observations about the nature of revenge and anger, specifically, that I really responded to as someone who kind of has a difficult time with the way those things are often portrayed on film. I just thought it was a really smart and funny and insightful film; I really liked it a lot.”
[…]Tobias: “I liked it lot too, though it isn’t really sticking to the ribs as much as I thought it would. I’ve seen it twice now[…], and I don’t know, there’s something missing there, and I can’t know what it is. I think I have trouble engaging with the film past its surface extraordinary cleverness, which is fine. The joy for me in watching this film is the musicality of the dialogue and the really excellent performances by the people delivering that dialogue: Frances McDormand, of course, and Woody Harrelson, that’s a great performance and a great character, and Sam Rockwell to a degree as well. But as far as its observations about small-town life and about revenge, it didn’t feel like a film of great depth, but I can be talked into it, so maybe you all can talk me into it.”
Sam Adams with Dana Stevens on The Shape of Water for Slate’s Spoiler Specials:
“In this week’s episode, Slate’s movie critic, Dana Stevens, and Slate senior editor Sam Adams spoil Guillermo del Toro’s newest film, The Shape of Water. Is this Del Toro’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth? What should we make of its mysterious ending? And how hot is that fish-monster sex?”