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!
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) December 8, 2017
Tasha Robinson on The Shape of Water for The Verge:
“This is a Guillermo del Toro film. It’s about the past. Specifically, it’s about Eliza’s mysterious, inscrutable past, and how it affects her present choices. It’s about the way Zelda’s sullen husband isn’t the handsome young man he used to be, and how he’s become a cranky tyrant who expects her to endlessly cater to him because of their shared history. It’s about the way Giles hangs onto his youth and is baffled by the present, where he’s a tired old relic whose skills are passé. And it’s about those emotional, sweet old musicals, where everyone seems endlessly cheery and fulfilled.”
Sam Adams on I, Tonya for Slate:
“Written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya gives us the Hard Copy version of the story. Apart from Tonya, played by Margot Robbie with bulldog determination, most of its major characters, including Sebastian Stan’s Gillooly and Allison Janney as Harding’s brutal, abusive mother, LaVona Golden, exist on a spectrum between absurdity and grotesquerie. The tone is tongue-in-cheek, with teeth gritted so hard you can taste just a hint of blood.”
Noel Murray on I, Tonya for The Week:
“A lot could’ve gone awry with the rich, glamorous Robbie playing the battered, working-class Harding. But the actress is neither too cartoonish nor too much the long-suffering martyr. The movie as a whole threads a similar needle, between taking the Harding saga too seriously and treating it like a big joke. Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers risked skewing too far to the latter by structuring the film as a kind of mockumentary, having the characters address the camera with sardonic comments as they look back at what happened.”
Matt Singer on Phantom Thread for ScreenCrush:
“It’s worth considering what writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis may have tucked away below the surface of Phantom Thread, their fascinating new film. In its early scenes, it is all about Day-Lewis’ Reynolds, a brilliant but irascible designer. Then its story expands to include Alma, and her attempts to maintain a relationship with the mercurial Reynolds. In doing so, it suggests a very personal subtext to this movie about how hard (but potentially rewarding) it is to live with great but difficult artists.”
Keith Phipps on Phantom Thread for Uproxx:
“Here Anderson uses it as raw material to explore some themes that have become central to his work: the way we struggle to control one another, the ways we seek connection and love, and the how those twin pursuits sometimes overlap. It ends up finding some seemingly impossible middle ground between There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love, turning a struggle for leverage at the most intimate level into an unusual love story.
Much has been made of Day-Lewis’ announcement that this will be his final film. We’ll see if that takes, but if this is the actor’s last hurrah, it will be a fine note on which to end.”
Keith Phipps on The Post for Uproxx:
“[…][I]t’s part of the brilliance of The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg from a script by Liz Hannah and Spotlight screenwriter Josh Singer, that each layer replicates the other, like a fractal. It would be easy enough to take the “no” about the wedding or, worse, soften the paper’s stance to please the powers that be, but there’s a principle at stake. And what matters at the macro level matters at the micro level. The people need to know what’s going on with those who govern them, public servants to whom they’ve given the power to make life-or-death decisions.”
Matt Singer on The Post for ScreenCrush:
“When it was pitched to Hollywood studios, it was probably described as a prequel to All the President’s Men. About a year before the Watergate break-in, the leadership of the Post — publisher Katharine Graham (Streep) and executive editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) — is faced with a world-changing decision: Whether to pursue, and then to publish, the Pentagon Papers. This top-secret 7,000-word report by the Department of the Defense detailed decades of American involvement in (and government deceit about) Vietnam.”
David Ehrlich on The Post for IndieWire:
” “The Post” works as a history lesson, but its priorities are clearly sorted by their relevance to the crises we’re enduring right now, the need for a free press being first among them. Few films have so acutely traced the triangular relationship between journalists, sources, and subjects, and even fewer have so palpably expressed the personal cost of maintaining that sacred dynamic. One of the most intriguing subplots concerns Graham’s friendship with McNamara, and how difficult it would be for her to publish something that would ruin someone close to her.”
David Ehrlich on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle for IndieWire:
“The “Freaky Friday” of it all goes a long way towards distracting from a straightforward story full of stale action beats, and director Jake Kasdan (“Walk Hard”) is clearly a lot more comfortable with improv comedy than he is with large-scale CG. “Welcome to the Jungle” is at its most fun in the moments when it leans into the video game nature of its reality, assigning each of its characters three “lives” and amusingly adhering to the rules and limitations of an old-fashioned side-scroller.”
just sayin if they're gonna remake Robin Williams movies with Kevin Hart and The Rock they should've started with GOOD WILL HUNTING.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) December 6, 2017
Nathan Rabin on The Disaster Artist for Scalding Hot Takes:
“Franco’s movies were interesting, to be sure, but they were so slight that they barely seemed to exist. Franco is always going for something interesting, something daring, something important, something real. But before The Disaster Artist he never got there. In that respect, the movie is the perfect distillation of Franco’s aesthetic as an actor, a filmmaker and a Warholian celebrity pathologically obsessed with his own fame.”
Nathan Rabin on Brigsby Bear for Lukewarm Takes:
“Brigsby Bear is a masterpiece of mood and tone. The filmmakers, and particularly [Kyle] Mooney, who is so good and so distinctive that it is impossible to think of anyone else in the role, walk a tonal high wire act throughout. If things get too wacky or broad for even a moment, then the movie’s fragile spell risks collapsing. But Brigsby Bear manages to maintain a tricky, fragile tone throughout, a sort of waking dream of pop culture kitsch reimagined as a crude but powerful sort of religion a zealot is reluctant to let go of even when the entire foundation it is built upon shattered.”
Charles Bramesco on Stronger for Little White Lies:
“If nothing else, [David Gordon] Green’s blossomed into a wonderful suspense filmmaker, in the sense that the varying levels of quality in his work become apparent with all the tension of a Shyamalanesque twist.
It’s a pleasant surprise, then, that the version of Green who knows what he’s doing shows up for the sobering, unsentimental Stronger. He brings his A-game to a project more fraught with trainwreck potential than anything he’s tackled before, demonstrating a refreshing shrewdness and restraint in a narrative that could have easily melted into gooey hagiography or pat inspirationalism.”
Sheila O’Malley on Quest for RogerEbert.com:
“Only 90 minutes long, the film feels intimate and yet at the same time vast. It has a relaxed pace, but an intensity of focus. Editor Lindsay Utz had to sift through 300 hours of footage and somehow craft it into a narrative. The project started when Chris Rainey’s brother took Olshefski to visit Everquest Recordings. Olshefski had never made a documentary before, and he initially thought of doing a photography project about Everquest, but eventually abandoned that idea and decided to broaden the scope. What interested him was Chris and Christine’a, as people. They are both riveting to watch, and even more so to listen to.”
Scott Tobias on Quest for NPR:
“[…]Quest could be received as a low-key answer to projects like PBS’ An American Family and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, with the Raineys cast as an avatar of black working-class life. But save for the political echoes that frame it, the film resists the urge the generalize their struggles, for fear of losing the particular intimacies that make the Raineys unique. Olshefski allows full years to pass without much incident, but his camera captures touching bits of sketchwork, like P.J. banking in basketball shots in the driveway shortly after her release from the hospital or Christine’a telling the girl why her school-year wardrobe will fall short of expectations.”
Nathan Rabin on Masters of the Universe (1987) for Cannoncember:
“Barty and Langella, both much better actors than Lundgren, are delighted to be over-acting egregiously under layer upon layer of freaky alien make-up. Not surprisingly, they’re a lot more enjoyable to watch than its clearly embarrassed star. When Skeletor refers to Earth as a “primitive and tasteless planet” he’s espousing the viewpoint of a sneering bad guy, but he’s also talking about a Cannon production that takes place largely inn New Jersey, so he’s not exactly wrong.”
Kate Erbland interviews Gwendoline Christie for IndieWire:
“When recently asked by IndieWire her stance on the growing Porg debate, Christie was clear: “pro-Porg! A hundred percent pro-Porg.”
Her love stems from a very real place, too. “When I look at a Porg, do you know what I think it is? I think it is a manifestation of parts of Rian Johnson’s soul,” she said. “And for that reason, I love the Porg. If I hear anyone saying that they’re not into the Porg, I get incredibly defensive. That’s just what I’m projecting. I feel like it’s an element of his soul, and they are beautiful creatures.” “
Kate Erbland interviews screenwriter Steven Rogers for IndieWire:
“Although Rogers didn’t set out to purposely make a film that, in many ways, engenders sympathy towards Harding and even Gillooly and their insane experiences, that’s been one result of telling a multi-faceted story. “They’ve both been thrown to the wolves, in terms of the press and the media, they were reduced to soundbites, a punchline,” Rogers said. “I really wanted to humanize them. Once they relaxed with me and trusted me a bit, it was a lot easier.” ”
Tasha Robinson interviews Radius directors Caroline Labrèche and Steeve Léonard for The Verge:
“What’s your working relationship like, both as writers and directors?
CL: Well, like he said, we’ve been together for 21 years, so we’ve always worked together. It’s pretty organic, the way we work.
SL: Usually, we’ll get an idea and brainstorm about what kind of form the story should take. We’ll work out the beats together, just to make a skeleton. That’s always together. Then we’ll hash out what every scene should be about: “This scene’s purpose is X Y Z, that’s what it’s about—” “
Tasha Robinson interviews Michael Shannon for The Verge:
“Leading up to this film, you often talked about how excited you were to work with Guillermo del Toro. What about working with him was compelling to you?
His vocabulary. His cinematic vocabulary. When I saw Pan’s Labyrinth, I thought, “This is a standalone movie. There’s no other movie — it defies genre. It defies comparison. It is like a crystal-pure thing that came from this man’s mind and his heart. I was very moved by it. So ever since I saw it, I was a big fan of his.”
Matt Singer interviews John Boyega for ScreenCrush:
“What was your reaction to seeing these creatures for the first time, and could you anticipate that they would become so popular so quickly?
My first reaction was horror.
Yes. I saw the porgs in the hole in the Millennium Falcon, with tiny smaller ones all bunched together. From then, we always got off on a bad foot.“
Kate Erbland on how “Female Filmmakers, Actresses, and Advocates Forever Changed Hollywood in 2017” for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“It may seem like a lifetime ago, but the Weinstein accusations only hit in October. If there’s one thing that seems destined to forever change Hollywood and the wider world it touches, it’s these stories.
And why did they finally hit so hard this year? Why are there so many? Why aren’t they stopping? Because people finally started listening and believing women, not just “letting” them talk or nodding along. Women have mobilized (including, most notably, Rose McGowan, who has gathered a literal army around her), not letting up on these difficult stories and continuing to come forward with their experiences.”
Matthew Dessem’s obituary for Johnny Hallyday for Slate:
“Halliday’s breakout film role was a musician named “Johnny” in 1963’s Where Are You From, Johnny?, but later in life he tackled more challenging roles, starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s Détective in 1985 and Johnnie To’s Vengeance in 2009. His personal favorite was his appearance in Patrice Leonard’s 2002 film The Man on the Train. He also appeared in The Pink Panther 2.”
David Ehrlich on “Why ‘Lady Macbeth’ Star Florence Pugh Should Be a Dark Horse in this Year’s Best Actress Race” for IndieWire:
“There aren’t very many words spoken in William Oldroyd’s “Lady Macbeth” — most of the communication is done through sex, abuse, and murder — but not a one of them is wasted or forgotten. Indeed, the film’s emblematically terse first exchange looms over the 85 minutes that follow like a dark shadow on a bitter day, and it’s proof that Florence Pugh deserves more attention in this year’s competitive awards season.”
Kate Erbland and David Ehrlich, with Anne Thompson, Liz Shannon Miller, and Eric Kohn on a potential Tarantino Star Trek for IndieWire:
“KATE ERBLAND: […]But if this year has taught us anything, it’s that even the most improbable of things can happen. Maybe Tarantino really is eager for something entirely new, and while the process behind this rumored production is about as far removed from his normal schtick as possible, it would be work couched in something he loves: “Star Trek”!
DAVID EHRLICH: […]Ideally, and naively, the experiment would work so well that studios the world over would see the value in handing their most prized brands over to true auteurs.
But none of this is going to happen.”
Kate Erbland on the Duplass brothers’ continuing effort to support indie filmmakers for IndieWire:
“It’s Seed&Spark’s birthday, but filmmakers are the one poised to receive some very big gifts from the film-focused crowdfunding platform with built-in distribution. In celebration of its fifth birthday, Seed&Spark has announced a massive slate of crowdfunding rallies for 2018, bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching loans, grants, and investments from prestige brands and production company partners to the filmmakers using their platform.”
Charles Bramesco on the making of Voyeur for Vulture:
“Without even realizing it, they had taken up a task nested in paradoxes: How do you responsibly chronicle an irresponsible chronicling?
“We had no idea of the complications,” Koury said. “A year or two into production, once we met Gerald and started to understand both of these men, we thought that the story would be about journalism, and the complex relationship between artist and subject … Then, as we moved forward, things pretty much went haywire.” “
Nathan Rabin with Clint Worthington in Episode 3 of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Cast — the minutes are:
05:28 – Scalding Hot Takes: The Disaster Artist
21:10 – The Big Whoop: Welcome Back, Depression, My Old Friend
32:14 – This Looks Terrible: Rapsittie Street Kids – Believe in Santa
48:27 – Lukewarm Takes: Brigsby Bear
59:44 – Control Nathan and Clint: Suburban Commando
1:16:47 – Mailbag
1:20:42 – Happy Places
— Next Picture Show (@NextPicturePod) December 7, 2017