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!
Tasha Robinson on Star Wars: The Last Jedi for The Verge:
“Last Jedi is often a painful, mournful film about loss: as the bleak story unfolds, the characters lose allies and friends and family, agency and options, treasured illusions and ideals. They lose significant objects tied to their identities. They lose confidence and cockiness and hope. Some of them lose their lives. Not all those losses are defeats, but it’s unmistakable how much of the Star Wars mythos lovingly re-created and embraced in The Force Awakens crumbles to ash in The Last Jedi, and how the series’s wisest characters embrace that process as a painful but necessary rebirth.”
Matt Singer on Star Wars: The Last Jedi for ScreenCrush:
“Rian Johnson grew up a Star Wars fan. There’s a well-known story about him getting a Millennium Falcon toy as a kid and accidentally breaking it when he tried to make it fly. Watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which Johnson wrote and directed, one gets the distinct sense he’s been waiting his whole life to make this movie; to guide these characters, to make the Falcon fly. The people in Star Wars implore one another to fulfill their destinies. With The Last Jedi, Johnson fulfilled his. Given the opportunity, he made the best Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back.”
Sam Adams on Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Slate:
“The Last Jedi is the first Star Wars movie to be influenced by Spaceballs.
Johnson brings to The Last Jedi a cinephile’s erudition as well as a geek’s devotion, and he’s made a film that connects to Star Wars at the root—not just the first movie, but the ones that inspired it. There’s Kurosawa in it, both the rowdy fabulism of The Hidden Fortress and the impressionist choreography of Ran, a sword fight in a scarlet throne room that draws on Powell and Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffman, even an overt nod to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch.”
Sheila O’Malley on Permanent for RogerEbert.com:
“In “Permanent,” writer/director Colette Burson (creator of the HBO series “Hung”) uses the premise of a Tween’s bad haircut to explore—to varying degrees of success—issues of family, class, adolescence.
The year is 1982. Farrah Fawcett’s hair still reigns. Young Aurelie (Kira McLean), who has moved with her parents to a Virginia suburb, stares longingly at the bouncing thick locks of the middle-school girls around her, and begs her parents (Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson) to let her get a “permanent.” “
Charles Bramesco on The Meyerowitz Stories for Vulture:
“The good news is that 2017 has delivered unto the Jews a film worthy of the Hanukkah-movie mantle — the only thing is that it’s not set during Hanukkah. From the title on down, Noah Baumbach’s caustic new comedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) wears its heeb street cred on its sleeve. While each character has been individually shaded with fine strokes, the big, fractious Meyerowitz clan falls into a lot of the classic portrayals of Jewish families. They’re preoccupied with education and academic accomplishment, expert-level kvetchers, and noisily dysfunctional.”
David Ehrlich on Birdboy: The Forgotten Children for IndieWire:
“A hand-drawn head-trip directed by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero — and adapted from Vázquez’s graphic novel, “Psychonauts” — “Birdboy” thrives on the disconnect between the innocence of its fluffy heroes and the despair of the life they’ve inhabited. And yet, the film is never the least bit smug about the subversiveness of its conceit; there’s absolutely no attempt at shock value. On the contrary, this dark and mesmerizing import feels like a natural segue in a conversation started by the likes of “Maus” and “Watership Down,” Vázquez and Rivero using anthropomorphic critters to grapple with subjects that might be painful to confront directly.”
Scott Tobias on Ferdinand for NPR:
“In Blue Sky’s version, the bull isn’t particularly distinguishable from the scores of other anthropomorphic beasts who want to go their own way, but get ostracized for being different. Slap a red nose on him and he’s Rudolph. Put him in the kitchen and he’s Remy from Ratatouille.
[…]Ferdinand’s time in pacifist-bull paradise adds time — too much, at 107 minutes—and a human element to the film, but once nature finally catches up and turns him into a bulky terror, he can no longer escape his predetermined destiny.”
Mike D’Angelo on Molly’s Game for The A.V. Club:
“It’s a pleasure listening to Chastain spit out Sorkin’s trademark torrents of implausibly wised-up verbiage, and fascinating to watch Elba put a more laid-back spin on the words. As a director, Sorkin mostly (and wisely) stays out of the way of his screenplay, composing shots with an eye toward how they’ll likely be shaped in the editing room, based primarily on verbal rhythms. It’s solid, professional work, intent on ensuring that the story zips along with few speed bumps. When Molly’s Game does falter, ironically, it’s due to lousy, Newsroom-level writing.”
Mike D’Angelo on Wormwood for The A.V. Club:
“Much of Wormwood consists of [Errol] Morris’ usual probing interviews, digging into the details of a cold case dating back to 1953. This time, though, his speculation about events takes more concrete form, with actors like Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Tim Blake Nelson, and Bob Balaban acting out scripted scenes (written by Steven Hathaway and Molly Rokosz) that are intercut with the talking heads and archival footage. Cinema has been moving toward a hybrid form for ages, but leave it to a longtime innovator like Morris to push it this far.”
Keith Phipps on Wormwood for Uproxx:
“Wormwod is a new sort of project for Morris in several respects. It an episodic piece made for TV, though it might work just as well as a long movie. (I watched it, rapt, in one sitting, and it will have a small theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles starting on December 15th.)
[…]Morris shoots his interviews from multiple angles, often with large chunks of the frame obscured by one object or another. Sometimes he even lets himself be filmed asking the question. Where in the past Morris attempted to gaze directly into a story and find the truth, everything in Wormwood suggests that the truth can only be found by looking at it from different perspectives.”
Only one minute and 15 seconds in and someone just said “Everything a growin’ fella needs like you” instead of “Everything a growin’ fella like you needs” and Ayer just used that take as if it were totally fine.
— Mike D'Angelo (@gemko) December 13, 2017
Nathan Rabin on Jingle All the Way 2 (2014) for Control Nathan Rabin:
“In his desperate quest to procure a Harrison Bear, Larry does everything from trying to win a bucking reindeer contest by supergluing the seat of his pants to the mechanical bucking reindeer to threatening to defecate explosive diarrhea on the lap of a Santa. These slapstick sequences aren’t funny, of course, but they have a vulgar spark missing from the rest of the film. Jingle All the Way 2’s sappiness made me nostalgic for the old, crude Larry the Cable Guy and I fucking hate that guy.”
on Albert Nobbs (2012) ‘s “Best Movies of 2017” for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“10. Albert Nobbs
Issues of gender and sexuality were at the forefront of American life and pop culture this year. No movie dealt with these issues more powerfully than Albert Nobbs, the heartbreaking story of a woman who lives as a man in a time and an age that demanded repression and silence and would not allow people to be their best, truest, most authentic selves.
9. Albert Nobbs”
Mike D’Angelo on The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) for Oscillope’s Musings:
“At the time of the film’s release, in 2001, Carcanogues’ words pointedly echoed the most common criticism of the Coen brothers: that their films are superficially clever but fundamentally empty, little more than self-conscious genre riffs. That complaint doesn’t get lodged as frequently these days, in part because Joel and Ethan finally made an overtly personal movie, 2009’s A Serious Man, that reflects their own suburban Jewish upbringing. But The Man Who Wasn’t There remains their most wrenching cri de coeur, even if its heartfelt aspects are deliberately buried deep.”
Nathan Rabin on Suburban Commando (1991) for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“The more I watch the feeble film vehicles of folks like Chuck Norris and Hulk Hogan, the more I appreciate what Schwarzenegger brings to movies.
[…]Thankfully Suburban Commando has one big asset in the form of Larry Miller. The inveterate scene-stealer is the opposite of Hulk Hogan: he can’t not be funny. He oozes funniness. There’s hilarity in Miller’s blood and DNA. He is a consistent hoot as Charlie’s boss, a glad-handing phony with a wonderfully smarmy line of patter for everyone.”
Kate Erbland interviews Kelly Marie Tran for IndieWire:
” “It was really emotional,” Tran told IndieWire when asked about her experience watching “The Last Jedi” alongside her cast, just two weeks before the film’s official premiere, so tight is security around it and all other “Star Wars” properties.
[…]She added, “I think that this movie is going to be really emotional for people to watch. I mean, every character is going through something really difficult. Every character has amazing moments in this movie, the performances are incredible.” “
Kate Erbland interviews Lesley Manville for IndieWire:
“As with many Paul Thomas Anderson projects, the “Phantom Thread” production contained a certain amount of myth-making. One story follows the allegedly claustrophobic nature of the Georgian townhouse they shot much of the film and served as both set and staging area. Day-Lewis called it “awful” and “a nightmare.” However, Manville looks back on the process with a lot of affection.
“It wasn’t that confined!” Manville laughed.” It was a huge, huge house in Fitzroy Square. The great thing about it was, we sort of used every inch of it. It felt like going into their home and salon every day.” “
Jen Chaney, with Kyle Buchanan, on “The Surprises and Snubs of the 2018 Golden Globe Nominations” for Vulture:
“Three of the buzziest helmers this season were shut out of the Globes’ Best Director of a Motion Picture category: Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig, Get Out’s Jordan Peele, and Call Me by Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino. I would be startled if at least two of those didn’t make their way into Oscar’s final five, but the Globes instead favored blockbuster helmers like Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, and Guillermo del Toro, saving their last slot for Martin McDonagh, whose dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri scored in nearly every category it was able to today.”
Kate Erbland on how “‘Star Wars’ Always Put Women in the Back Seat, But in ‘The Last Jedi’ They Call The Shots” for IndieWire:
” “If it was specific to ethnicity, it would just be a two-dimensional character,” Tran said of other roles that she’s been offered in the past. “This was the first thing that I fell in love with instantly in terms of being a real person.”
[…]“It’s kind of no secret that women have been relegated to roles of the mother, or the girlfriend, or not the lead character,” Christie said. “What I love about these ‘Star Wars’ films is that we’re seeing female characters who are not just strong, they’re not just behaving like men do. That’s not what equals strong. The reason the characters are strong is that they’re multidimensional.” “
Rachel Handler on why “The Star Wars Prequels Should Have Fewer Human-Sized Aliens” for Vulture:
“I had previously avoided the prequels, for a while by accident, and then for a longer while because everybody told me they sucked. I had a few major takeaways from the experience.
The first: It’s profoundly unclear to me how young children follow these movies.
[…]The second: I can immediately tell the difference between Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman under 16 layers of whiteface, and this makes me proud, especially considering the previous sentence I just wrote.
The third: There are too many human-sized, human-shaped aliens.”
Jen Chaney defends “Hayden Christensen’s Performance in the Star Wars Prequels” for Vulture:
“In The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Adam Driver is essentially playing another version of Anakin in the form of Kylo Ren, and he’s electrifying to watch, especially in Last Jedi. He may be a better actor than Christensen – he’s certainly had more and better opportunities to prove that – but he also is playing someone who, while conflicted, has already proven himself to be potentially evil. Both Abrams and Johnson have allowed him to embrace that in a way that Christensen could never fully do until the final act of Sith.”
Charles Bramesco on “the Disney/Fox deal” for The Guardian:
“[…][A] deal of this scale should give anyone subject to the turbulent tides of the US economy pause. Even before they became the largest media conglomerate in the world by a significant margin, Disney was already a shadowy corporate behemoth with unsettling business practices. It was just last month that Disney officially barred Los Angeles Times critics from their movie screenings as a punishment for unflattering reportage on the Walt Disney Co’s vampiric relationship to the city of Anaheim.”
Matthew Dessem on how “The 2017 Black List Gives a Glimpse of Hollywood Yet-to-Come” for Slate:
“For some reason, stories about famous male artists are a little less popular this year, and the thought of a Donald Trump biopic making the list, as Tom Cartier’s The Builder did in 2016, seems completely unthinkable. So what’s taken their place? Nazis and female assassins, naturally. There are no fewer than nine screenplays about Nazis of various sorts, and either four or five about female assassins, depending on your definition of assassins. (One script, Darby Keeley’s Liberation, hit the exacta: it’s about Nancy Wake, a woman who killed Nazis.) “
Charles Bramesco on “2017: The year that everyone had sex on screen” for Mic:
“As feminist concepts of sex positivity seeped into the mainstream from academia, art responded in kind by extending a new generosity toward its characters’ physical needs. Luca Guadagnino’s swooning romance Call Me By Your Name and Malcolm D. Lee’s paean to black womanhood Girls Trip share more than a predilection for the supple flesh of fresh fruit. The moviegoing public will likely never look at a peach or a grapefruit the same way ever again, and yet the hysterical tone (played slight in the former and over-the-top in the latter) of both erotic set pieces speaks to the intensity of an undernourished libido.”
David Ehrlich on Michael Fassbender’s Alien: Covenant performances for IndieWire:
“It’s easy to understand why Michael Fassbender hasn’t been floated as a potential Best Actor nominee for his work in “Alien: Covenant.” For one thing, the Oscars seldom acknowledge the fact that great acting can sometimes be found in massive summer tentpoles, even ones that underwhelm at the box office. For another, it would prove difficult to honor Fassbender’s work without splitting the vote or committing some kind of category fraud, as the guy plays two different roles in the film, improbably delivering both of the most brilliant performances in any blockbuster since “The Dark Knight.” “
Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, Keith Phipps, and Scott Tobias on Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist for episodes 106 and 107 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Tobias: “When it came out, I was starting to turn a little bit on Tim Burton, or least seeing Ed Wood as being too much of a Tim Burton character, rather than as a separate person to me. He’d just done movie after movie about misunderstood, quirky genuises or quirky artists that nobody understands, and that had been a theme that he just kept hitting on over and over and over again, and I was getting tired of it, but it played great this time, and I think those objections that I had at the time were petty.”
Robinson: “[…]I don’t think that those are petty complaints at all, because I went through the exact same process. I didn’t care for this movie when it came out; it seemed kind of garish and artificial and cartoonish, but given the way that Burton’s career has gone since then, I now know the true meaning of garish and cartoonish.”
Phipps: “[…]From a certain point of view, you can kind of see this as the last Tim Burton movie. I mean, Mars Attacks is a film I like a lot, but it’s sort of the last really personal film you can really point to. There’s sort of this arc from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure through Beetlejuice through Batman through especially Edward Scissorhands and this one, where quirky outsiders are what he does, and he has a real knack for them. It’s kind of interesting that it may have worn thin for some viewers by 1994, but now I think it looks a little better because, I’m hot and cold on Tim Burton these days, mostly cold, but in this period, he was really one of the people whose movies I looked forward to the most.”
Koski: “[…]I agree that I did find the parts where they were actually filming The Room to be the most fun elements of the film, but we are also all very familiar with Tommy Wiseau and what a weirdo he is, going into this. I think if you did not have that knowledge — you’re being introduced to Tommy with this movie — it would be even better. I think that you would really enjoy getting to puzzle over this strange character. For us, I think it’s a lot of, just, we’re waiting to get to this specific weird thing that we already know about Tommy rather than being surprised by those weird things about him.”
Robinson: “I question that, because I feel like if I hadn’t seen The Room beforehand, I would think that this was exaggerated. I would specifically think that the character of Wiseau, with his strange accent and his strange behavior, that it all had to be fake. And I’ve seen a couple of responses online from people who are like, ‘This must be overblown; this must be over the top.’ and then they get to the sequence at the end where Tommy Wiseau actually shows up and makes a cameo, and they’re like “Oh My God, that is what he’s like!”
Sam Adams joins the Spoiler Special podcast on The Last Jedi for Slate:
“On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. In this week’s episode, Slate’s movie critic, Dana Stevens, Slate senior editor Sam Adams, and Slate culture editor Forrest Wickman spoil Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What do we make of the big reveal about Rey’s parents? Does the movie do justice to Carrie Fisher? And do the third-act twists make sense, or are there plot holes so big you could drive a Star Destroyer through them?”
I think my favorite part of this podcast was when I was asked why I loved a particular sequence, and I just answered, “Red.” https://t.co/H4FCB0DrAO
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) December 15, 2017
Nathan Rabin covers the How Did This Get Made? podcast for Splitsider’s Pod-Canon:
“Raphael, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as Robyn Paris, the actress with the surreal fortune and misfortune to play Michelle, bargain basement femme fatale Lisa’s sole friend and confidante. Scheer, Mantzoukas, and Raphael disappear in the heightened reality of The Disaster Artist, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they’ve been lovingly spreading the gospel of the life-changing awesomeness of The Room even before they had Sestero on as a very special guest on The Room episode of How Did This Get Made back in 2011.”