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!
Bad news: in a move from longform writing toward more video-based content, MTV News has laid off many of its writers. It has yet to be confirmed if Rachel Handler is or will be among those laid off. More details here and here.
— rachel handler (@rachel_handler) June 29, 2017
the ultimate lady problem: capitalism. we will miss y'all and do our best to reanimate in some new and even more demented form ❤🥃😈🤘
— Lady Problems (@LadyProblemsPod) June 29, 2017
Genevieve Koski on Baby Driver for Vox:
“That history is precisely what makes Wright’s new Baby Driver so intriguing: It’s the director once again reveling in a well-established genre — this time, the heist movie. But now he’s both director and sole writer, which makes Baby Driver the closest audiences can get to a pure, undiluted shot of Edgar Wright filmmaking (save for his very first film, 1995’s A Fistful of Fingers, which is commercially unavailable and all but impossible to track down). It’s also, notably, the movie he chose to make after parting ways with 2015’s Ant-Man, once it became apparent Marvel didn’t want to make “an Edgar Wright movie,” a chronology that suggests Baby Driver is the sort of “Edgar Wright movie” he wanted to make instead.”
Sam Adams on Baby Driver for Slate:
“Wright’s movie is part greatest-hits compilation, part remix, a high-speed all-access tour of car-chase movies that still manages to find a new route. It’s studded with cameos from the worlds of music and film, the most substantial (and nerdy) of which comes as such an unexpected surprise that I gasped out loud in the theater. Wright’s most novel idea is to approach the heist movie like one of Michael Powell’s “composed films,” where every element plays its part in a larger symphony. When Baby struts down the street to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle,” everything around him falls into place; a trumpet blares, and there’s a shop window with a trumpet in it, tilted just so that Baby can arch his back and pretend to blow into it at the perfect moment.”
Charles Bramesco on Baby Driver for Little White Lies:
“Never without the rotation of iPods he uses to drown out the whine of his tinnitus (a souvenir from the boyhood car crash that claimed his parents’ lives, a lead-footed symbol), Baby moves through his life like a musical – if that musical was Jacques Demy’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Rounding curves right in time with a platinum-plated soundtrack, Baby stands in as an instrument with which Wright can convert something as simple as a walk down the street or as complex as a three-phase chase scene into an elaborate production number.”
Tasha Robinson on Spider-Man: Homecoming for The Verge:
“Even though Spider-Man went toe-to-toe with Captain America and the MCU’s other biggest heroic power players in Civil War, Homecoming is a constant reminder that he’s a newbie hero and a 15-year-old kid, dealing with Spanish tests and chemistry classes as much as he’s dealing with criminal throwdowns. The refocusing — part of Sony’s effort to bring its Spider-Man stories in line with the MCU while creating a separate, smaller cinematic universe — should seem like a comedown after Civil War. Instead, it feels like a joyous celebration, not just of the MCU’s usual crowd-winning balance of humor and action, but of a little guy’s ability to make a difference, even when, for once, the fate of the world isn’t on the line.”
Matt Singer on Spider-Man: Homecoming for Screencrush:
“[…]Homecoming has two terrific actors at its center: Holland and Keaton, who make superb scene partners and effective doppelgangers — the youthful, exuberant teenager contrasts perfectly with the world-weary cynical businessman whose been beaten down by a rigged capitalist system. Both men are desperate for the approval and power of Tony Stark; both are desperate to prove their worth to a society that considers them superfluous. Their similar goals and attitudes makes them interesting opponents, and the screenplay (by a team of six writers, including Watts) builds to a slow-burn showdown in a car that’s probably the single most suspenseful scene in any Spider-Man movie to date.“
David Ehrlich on Spider-Man: Homecoming for IndieWire:
“Should he show up to the big party as the scrawniest nobody in his class, or should he swing in as the friendly neighborhood superhero who Liz naturally has a crush on? Should he stay at the inevitable homecoming dance, or does all that power and responsibility mean that he has to leave his date in the lurch to go save the city?
When “Homecoming” works, it does so by borrowing more from the likes of “Sixteen Candles” and “Just One of the Guys” than it does “Iron Man” or any of the other 412 previous installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It works by repurposing all that superhero stuff as a shiny new backdrop for the timeless dilemma of adolescence: How do you reconcile the person you are with the person you pretend to be?”
Nathan Rabin on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for Control Nathan Rabin:
“Harry is angry at Spider-Man and Peter Parker, to the point where he’s probably going to unfriend both on Facebook. But his anger goes beyond that. In the grand tradition of super-villains, and insanely bloated superhero sequels, opposites attract. So Harry teams up with Jamie Foxx’s Electro after Max Dillon goes from geek to malevolent God when when he’s electrocuted by genetically modified eels (which might sound far-fetched but is totally medically accurate) and trades in a wardrobe that is essentially a “Nerd” Halloween costume for first a hoodie and later a skin-tight body-hugging number like Jeff Fahey in The Lawnmower Man.”
Mike D’Angelo on The B-Side for The A.V. Club:
“[…]Errol Morris has conducted in-depth, direct-to-camera interviews with criminals (both guilty and falsely convicted), grieving pet owners, Florida eccentrics, Abu Ghraib soldiers, eminent scientists (including Stephen Hawking), and not one but two men who formerly held the position of U.S. secretary of defense. Artists, however, have been conspicuous in their absence. Until now, the sole example to be found among Morris’ features was topiary gardener George Mendonça, who shares 1997’s Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control with two scientists and a lion tamer. So it’s surprising to see Morris devote an entire movie to Elsa Dorfman, a portrait photographer best known for her regular use of Polaroid’s largest instant camera.”
Keith Phipps on The B-Side for Uproxx:
““I was looking for a medium,” [Elsa Dorfman] tells Morris, “and I just found it.”
Since finding it, she’s developed an instantly recognizable aesthetic, bringing the same approach to famous subjects and paying customers alike, shooting everyone against solid backgrounds in photos that look informal yet carefully, tellingly composed. Her past subjects have included Morris, her longtime friend. Their easy intimacy helps make The B-Side a delight to watch. Dorfman is a lively, cheerful presence who’s clearly at ease talking to someone who admires and understands what she does.”
Noel Murray on The Reagan Show for The A.V. Club:
“It’s almost impossible to watch Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez’s found-footage docu-essay The Reagan Show without thinking about the White House’s current occupant. The connections are intentional. Pettengill and Velez constructed The Reagan Show entirely from old media coverage of Ronald Reagan, using interviews, punditry, and amusing flubs and outtakes to paint a picture of a presidency that traded on the celebrity of its chief executive to sell simple, reactionary ideas about taxes, social welfare programs, and national defense to fiercely devoted supporters. In the opening minutes, the film even has a clip of President Reagan speaking to backers about his vision for the country, and promising, “Together, we’ll make America great again.” The message is clear: The voters just elected a man who invoked nostalgia for a man who invoked nostalgia.”
Scott Tobias on Sami Blood for the LA Times:
“[…][Amanda] Kernell put a premium on authenticity, from the language and the casting to the minutiae of reindeer-marking knives, the real implements used by racial biologists and even the dryness of the soil around Sami tepees. Only about 500 people speak Southern Sami, her native language, which made the roles of Elle-Marja and Njenna the narrowest of casting targets. After a long search, she was eventually led to Lene Cecilia Sparrok and Mia Sparrok, respectively.
“I wanted to find two sisters who had grown up with reindeer herding because I wanted them to be able to use a knife and handle big reindeer as [Lene Cecilia] does by the end,” says Kernell. “We had to pick girls who were not afraid. I wanted to find the Katniss Everdeen of Sápmi, the Sami region, and I think she is.” “
Kate Erbland on Despicable Me 3 for IndieWire:
“It’s clear from the opening minutes of “Despicable Me 3” that the popular Illumination Entertainment franchise has lost the thread on what makes the series so appealing to its target audience (you know, kids). […] Voiced by Trey Parker, the balding Bratt is a weirdo riff on classic ’80s TV characters like Small Wonder and Punky Brewster, complete with a sassy robot friend and a keytar he uses to play such jams as “Sussudio” and “Take on Me,” a role entirely dependent on the audience’s knowledge of the kind of roles he’s skewering. He seems unlikely to appeal to — or amuse — the younger set, but at least he’s got a little flair, something the rest of the film is severely lacking.”
Matt Singer on Despicable Me 3 for Screencrush:
“It would make sense if Bratt’s general weirdness was an excuse to let Parker, who’s created some of the most distinctive animated characters in history, flex his vocal skills. Instead, he’s just another guy with a goofy costume and weapons. Literally anyone could have provided Bratt’s voice; the hair and silly dancing do all the work. Carell is still charming as the mysteriously accented Gru, and his totally different mystery accent as Dru is good for a couple more laughs. But the sibling rivalry between the two never develops into something substantial.
Nothing in the movie does, really. Despicable Me 3 isn’t terrible, per se. It isn’t anything.”
Nathan Rabin on Playing It Cool for This Looks Terrible! :
“Evans, who also Executive-Produced Playing It Cool, was big fucking star by this point. He’d played not only Captain America but also The Human Torch and one of the seven evil exes in Scott Pilgrim Versus The World so he theoretically knew what he was doing when he helped make Playing It Cool happen.
[…]So when a movie is made about a screenwriter (something that can never happen enough, as far as the public is concerned), and movies, and the overlap and interplay and cross-pollination of life and movies, we end with Captain America playing a dude who makes his living in film not as a strapping stud in front of the cameras but rather as an ink-stained wretch who spends the entire movie jibber-jabbering to us via voiceover in ways that made me wish that the filmmakers had heeded the old maxim to use voiceover or narration only if it is absolutely necessary.”
Nathan Rabin on Entourage for Lukewarm Takes:
“Entourage: the Movie wastes no time reminding me why my affection for the show gradually but unmistakably morphed into hatred. It opens in Ibiza (of course), with the titular entourage speeding to a yacht where a bunch of bikini-clad supermodels drink champagne and lounge about decoratively.
As the prophecy foretold, Entourage: The Movie’s first line of dialogue is Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) talking about how he might have to jerk it before even getting to his brother’s floating pleasure palace because he’s so horny. That seems fitting, since what follows is a masturbatory exercise in self-mythologizing, fan service and taking a wholly unmerited, film-length victory lap.”
Nathan Rabin on Fat Albert for My World of Flops:
“In a movie with a pulse, and a soul, and some energy, Fat Albert and the Cosby kids would run amok in the crazy new live-action world of 2004. The Brady Bunch Movie style culture clash comedy would ensue as these living embodiments of funky 1970s childhood nostalgia are thrust into our crazy modern world.
Instead the Cosby kids and Fat Albert very politely stumble their way through groaning culture-clash gags, like the gang deciding to “audit” a class with Doris where the stern instructor tells her students, “All right kids, power up, log on and access the internet!” and, this is priceless—Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids are confused because they live in a world without the internet!”
Charles Bramesco interviews Edgar Wright for Nylon:
“What was your process like, having to shoot in time with music?
All of the songs were cleared before we started shooting—they’re written into the screenplay. Then we choreographed the major sequences with Ryan Heffington, a great choreographer who did Sia’s “Chandelier” music video. On set, we used every different variation of playback. Sometimes only Ansel would hear the music, sometimes the other actors would hear it via earpieces, sometimes we’d play it out loud. And sometimes, we’d do timed counts without the music, because the gunfire would’ve drowned it out for the actors.”
Matt Singer interviews Kevin Feige for Screencrush:
“If you’re worried about SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Homecoming, you might want to avoid the question below about Donald Glover. Otherwise, this interview is spoiler-free.
[…]Why was it important to you to get Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Well, we thought there was a lot to do with Spider-Man that had never been done before; to showcase him for the first time actually inhabiting the universe in which he belongs. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did not create a character that was a lone hero in Manhattan. They created a kid who got these extraordinary powers and had to balance going to school with doing the things that these other amazing heroes were doing who didn’t have to go to school, and who lived in almost literal ivory towers.“
Matthew Dessem’s obituary for Michael Nyqvist for Slate:
“Nyqvist first gained international attention in 2000 for a scorching performance as an abusive husband in Lukas Moodysson’s 1970s period piece Together. After spending the decade working in Sweden, he landed the role of journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the 2009 adaptations of Steig Larson’s Millennium Trilogy, playing against Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth Salander in all three films.”
Matt Singer’s obituary for Michael Nyqvist for Screencrush:
“Nyqvist parlayed The Dragon Tattoo’s success into a busy Hollywood career, mostly as sinister villain types. He was the lead bad guy in the first John Wick, squaring off against Keanu Reeves, and he tussled with Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol[.]
Sadly, Nyqvist’s American career was interrupted almost as quickly as it began. Back home in Sweden, his big break came in the 2000 film Together by Lucas Moodysson (which is very much worth watching if you’ve never seen it). Nyqvist leaves behind an impressive artistic legacy, and many sad what-ifs about the roles he could have played if his life wasn’t cut so tragically short.”
Kate Erbland on how the Fast & Furious films can better treat their female leads for IndieWire’s Girl Talk:
“When her husband Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) unexpectedly abandons their crew, Letty becomes the group’s de facto leader, and why shouldn’t she? She has, after all, been there from the beginning. She’s just as much a key member of this so-called family than Dom.
But that one subplot doesn’t detract much from the totality of the franchise, and Rodriguez isn’t wrong about the series’ lack of love for its female stars, including supporting characters like Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), and Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), all of whom primarily exist to round out the storylines of the films’ male characters, often as love interests who occasionally come along for the ride.”
Charles Bramesco on “Showbiz Satire’s Descents Into Madness” for Oscilloscope Lab’s Musings:
“The history of showbiz spoofery is the history of insanity: the finest entries have used the assorted pressures of filmmaking to push their characters to their wit’s end as an absurd representation of the corrosive forces of Hollywood. Starting from Anger’s sensationalist tracking of Frances Farmer’s long, sad descent into madness, all roads have led to the sanatorium.
The main thoroughfare is the derelict drag of Sunset Blvd. Billy Wilder was the first to conjure a human manifestation of filmmaking’s maggoty underbelly with Norma Desmond, a crumbling grand dame cannily played by crumbling grand dame Gloria Swanson. Swanson applied the exaggerated techniques of silent film acting to the talkie form in order to create an affected style marked by its own period, a symbol of decay in an industry obsessed with the new and young.”
David Ehrlich on the film and television mediums for IndieWire:
And so, faced with this seemingly sudden sea change, it was only a matter of time before I found myself considering a refashioned version of an old question: “Are movies the new TV?” For years, entertainment writers have looked at it the other way around, and of course, there is no one answer to such broad questions. But it’s far more satisfying to explore the seismic cultural shifts that prompt us to ask them in the first place.”
Kate Erbland on the Duplass brothers’ new effort to support indie filmmakers for IndieWire:
“It’s a match made in indie film heaven — filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass, along with Seed&Spark, the film-focused crowdfunding platform with built-in distribution, has announced a brand new initiative designed to find and bolster new filmmaking talent all over the country. The newly announced Hometown Heroes partnership is designed to challenge “filmmakers from all over the country to tell stories that have never been told from wherever they are.”
The rally is a large-scale call for crowdfunding campaigns for narrative feature films on the Seed&Spark platform. Up to five winning projects will be picked from those that apply, and the Duplass brothers will then contribute up to $25,000 total, while also joining each project as executive producers. The pair also hope to use their knowledge and industry clout to further help each project on its path to the big screen.”
Matthew Dessem on three films to “Help You Understand the Republican Health Care Bill” for Slate:
It’s true that you won’t find many wonkish health care policy details in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent masterpiece. But as a primer in the small government philosophy that underlies the Republican party’s signature legislation, Count Orlok’s vampiric reign of terror is at least as instructive as an Ayn Rand novel. Give it a watch to get pumped up before dialing your senator, and remember: Republicans can’t enter your house unless you invite them.”
David Ehrlich with Eric Kohn on the “25 Best French Movies of the 21st Century” for IndieWire:
“25. “La Sapienza” (2014)
The premise of the “The Sapience” (“La Sapienza”) could easily provide fodder for a clichéd indie drama: an estranged couple travels to the countryside in a desperate attempt to raise their weary spirits, bonds with a pair of troubled teens and by helping them work through their problems, finds a renewed sense of hope. Gag. But in the hands of French-American filmmaker Eugéne Green (“The Portuguese Nun”), whose movies blend understated storytelling with literary themes, “The Sapience” is anything but familiar. Instead, the writer-director crafts a work that’s both weighted with scholarly inquiry and an undercurrent of poignancy unlike anything else.”
Tasha Robinson, Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, and mostly silent producer Genevieve Koski on The Thing (1982) and It Comes at Night for episodes 82 and 83 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Robinson: “I’m just gonna go out on a limb here and say that, much like Glengarry Glen Ross, this is a film that is better for not having women in it[…] It’s all about the paranoia and the anger, and it doesn’t have to become about who’s strong and who’s weak, and who needs to be protected, and who has feelings for who. I think this movie just comes across as so pure because it’s a single-gender film.”
Phipps: “So, Tasha Robinson calling for fewer roles for women. All right!”
Robinson: “Fewer roles for women, more men everywhere, just all-male environments in all things because of purity!”
Koski: (Laughs in the background)
Tobias: “In the laying out of space, I mean, we talked about that with The Thing as well, but a lot of the space is established here via lantern light.”
Phipps: “Yeah, between this and The Beguiled, it’s really a good stretch of films for lanterns.”
Tobias: “Right–everything’s cyclical, so lanterns could be making a comeback.”
Bonus sound button thanks to producer Koski and speaker Tobias:
— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) June 27, 2017
Erbland: “[…]As exciting as it can be, to see someone whose movies you’ve seen and loved at Sundance get this big break, it always sort of gave me pause, and seeing stories like this and stuff with Rogue One, you get kind of worried. It’s exciting when a big studio picks a smaller filmmaker to helm their next big thing, but the last few things that we’ve seen haven’t been very exciting to people who are interested in seeing a filmmaker’s artistic vision.”