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!
Scott Tobias on Beach Rats for NPR:
“By description, Beach Rat sounds a little like Moonlight, another gay coming-of-age story about secret pain and repressed desire, and Hittman’s hyper-sensual, impressionistic style puts it in the same aesthetic ballpark. But closer antecedents are films like Mean Streets and Saturday Night Fever, which aren’t about growing up gay, but articulate the macho rituals and quiet desperation of a particular species of New York City male. The culture may remember Saturday Night Fever for the Bee Gees and John Travolta’s disco swagger, but there are the other six nights of the week, too, when Travolta and his buddies stare at their dim future from a listless present.”
David Ehrlich on Death Note for IndieWire:
“The one twist that gorehound director Adam Wingard (“The Guest”) adds to the mix is the assassinations are executed in the style of a “Final Destination” film. So if Light scribbles that someone gets decapitated, the death ultimately results from a Rube Goldberg-like series of events that ends with a ladder going through their brain. In a film that tries to cram 10 liters of story into eight ounces of time, it’s extremely frustrating to see so much of it wasted on gratuitous kills that can’t even stack up to the creative bloodlust of the trashy B-movies they rip off.”
David Ehrlich on England is Mine for IndieWire:
“A handsome little biopic that’s sopping wet with the same clichés that its whiny hero so adamantly disavows, Mark Gill’s “England Is Mine” distills the early days of one Steven Patrick Morrissey into an anonymous coming-of-age story that — if not for its keen sense of place — could really be about any mopey white boy whose talents are dulled by torpor. The film begins in the late ’70s, when young Steven is still living in his family’s splintered Stretford council house and writing flippant concert reviews for some local music rags; it ends a few years later, before he and Johnny Marr have yet to record their first track as The Smiths.”
Mike D’Angelo on Bushwick for The A.V. Club:
“What just happened in Charlottesville lends Bushwick (which premiered at Sundance in January, and was shot back when everyone anticipated President Hillary Clinton) extra resonance, though the comment about diversity pretty much exhausts the film’s reserves of pointed political commentary. Certainly, nobody involved in this project seems to have considered the absurdity of another U.S. civil war taking citizens completely by surprise, as if such an extreme national rupture could occur with zero preamble. (They might not expect the first attack, but they’d damn well know who’s attacking and why.)”
Nathan Rabin on Teen Wolf Too for Squeakquels! :
“What Todd doesn’t realize is that his scholarship was set up through Coach Bobby Finstock (Paul Sand), the basketball coach of his cousin Scott from Teen Wolf. Finstock, and apparently only Finstock, remembers that one time an ordinary human high school student became a basketball-playing maniac upon transforming into a werewolf.
In our world, the revelation that werewolves are real would be front-page news worldwide. If those werewolves also did sick reverse-dunks, no-look passes and bad-ass alley-oops, then they’d be the subject of screaming headlines everywhere. Yet Teen Wolf Too seems to see the whole “Werewolf basketball star” story as something that fascinated the local press for a little while, then was forgotten.”
Kate Erbland interviews Noomi Rapace for IndieWire:
“[…]Rapace is clear that Ayer’s film is very much in line with his features before he got into franchises with his “Suicide Squad,” raw human dramas that don’t skimp on the tough stuff. That’s the sort of attitude that Ayer apparently brought to “Bright.”
“You can really feel David’s [other films] ‘Harsh Times,’ ‘Training Day,’ and ‘End of Watch,’ that kind of rawness and real authentic feeling,” Rapace said. “It’s not magical kind of fantastic sci-fi. It’s very real, it just happens to be orcs and elves and creatures that are not from our world. I think it can be a complete new wave.” “
Tasha Robinson interviews Adam Wingard for The Verge:
“How did Death Note come together?
It was quite an interesting process. The film was set up over at Warner Bros. for a number of years. They had gone through a lot of different directors, from Shane Black to Gus Van Sant, who was the last one attached before me. They were just looking for a director who had a take that really pulled it all together, because there’s a lot of things going on in Death Note that are not conventional. It’s a detective story, it’s a supernatural story, it’s a movie about young adults.”
Charles Bramesco interviews Adam Wingard for Nylon:
“[…][W]hen Wingard began the task of adapting this Gordian knot of moral philosophy and detective-thriller chess, he thought of pruning as his first step. “The script had a really long development process,” Wingard tells us. “It’s a tricky story to film because at the end of the day, Death Note was never designed as a movie. It’s a sprawling, serialized work. It was one of those things where we knew we couldn’t cram everything into one movie.” He clipped a subplot here, combined some scenes there, and ended up with something a bit more familiar to American audiences.”
Matt Singer interviews Dennis Muren on Terminator 2: Judgment Day for Screencrush:
“Was there one particular shot, or one kind of shot, in T2 that was harder than the others to create?
There were a lot, but my favorite that was certainly one of the hardest was the T-1000 walking through the bars in the asylum — which is just a phenomenal idea. And that’s the one that I feel, to me, was like impossible. I’m looking at it and I’ve been watching movies my whole life and it’s impossible, and I’m seeing it. If I was a kid, that would have been the shot that would have gotten me to want to do effects. So that was terrific.“
Craig J. Clark/Hooded Justice on “Hollywood’s Proud Tradition of Mocking White Supremacists” for Crooked Marquee:
“By the 1930s, organized hate groups were no laughing matter, with no fewer than three features released in one six-month span that sought to expose them for the money-making schemes many were. Taking inspiration from a Detroit murder carried out by a nationalist group called the Black Legion, 1936’s Legion of Terror and 1937’s Black Legion and Nation Aflame featured working-class white men duped into paying inflated initiation fees and shelling out hard-earned money for elaborate costumes to become part of a reactionary mob.“
Charles Bramesco on “How hate groups tried (and failed) to co-opt popular culture” for The Guardian:
“[…][H]orror godhead John Carpenter had to explicitly state that his cult classic They Live should not be interpreted as a commentary on a Jewish conspiracy to control the banks and media.
And yet the trouble persists that for those in search of a pop-culture slate on which to project Zionist paranoia, They Live works pretty well. Alt-right types and their unsavory brethren are drawn to narratives about reorienting perception of reality, regardless of the espoused politics that undergird them. Consider the rich, profound irony that the online anti-feminist subculture known as “the Red Pill” derives their name from The Matrix, a work of art created by two trans women.”
David Ehrlich on “Why Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Cut to the Feeling’ Proves the Oscars Need to Rewrite their Rules” for IndieWire:
“[…][T]he bigger point of contention here is that “Cut to the Feeling” would exist without “Leap!” (even though “Leap!” may not have existed without “Cut to the Feeling,” at least not in its current incarnation). That’s admittedly a tough hurdle to clear. But the fact of the matter is that Jepsen — who probably didn’t have Oscars on her mind when she agreed to lend her talents to a low-budget cartoon about a 19th Century ballerina — chose the movie as the avenue by which “Cut to the Feeling” would make its way out into the world. For six months, an eternity in the world of digital music, you had to buy a ticket to “Leap!” if you wanted to hear Jepsen’s banging new anthem. It wasn’t even on the soundtrack.”
our wedding was everything we dreamed it would be and sooo much more. endless love to everyone who made it possible. https://t.co/RUZfQhjeSR
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) June 11, 2017
Matthew Dessem’s obituary for Dick Gregory for Slate:
“Between 1960 and 1964, he released seven comedy albums, did the Tonight Show (he insisted Jack Paar let him sit down for a chat after his act, a privilege not usually afforded to black guests), and commanded high booking fees even as his humor became more pointed. In early interviews, he downplayed the political aspects of his act, telling one interviewer that “Humor can no more find the solution to race problems than it can cure cancer.” Which didn’t mean he didn’t use it to draw attention to race problems—one of his jokes went, “You know the definition of a Southern moderate? That’s a cat that’ll lynch you from a low tree.” “
Matthew Dessem’s obituary for Jerry Lewis for Slate:
“Martin & Lewis had an acrimonious split in 1956, leading Lewis to launch a solo film career at Paramount. He worked with Tashlin on hits like Who’s Minding the Store and Rock-a-Bye Baby in the late 1950s, then made the jump to directing with 1960’s The Bellboy, cooked up in a month to fill a hole in Paramount’s release schedule. In 1963, Lewis directed The Nutty Professor, a riff on Jekyll and Hyde in which Lewis’ character drinks a potion that turns him into a Casanova who bears more than a little resemblance to his former partner.”
Matt Singer on “The Reason ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ Still Holds Up 26 Years Later” for Screencrush:
“Though T2 was an influential film, it contains something most contemporary blockbusters lack: An almost mechanical precision about story, character, and visuals, along with incredible attention to structural detail.
Too many blockbusters these days feel like they were jury-rigged at a script level to accommodate action set-pieces that were conceived even before writing began. Others contain plot holes large enough to send a beefy Austrian back in time through them. Often, characters come a distant second to spectacle (or third, to Easter eggs and fan service). Important motivations and backstory get discarded on the cutting-room floor to keep the runtime down and ensure the maximum number of screenings (and box office dollars) each day.”
Nathan Rabin on UHF: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place:
“The song runs a mere seventeen seconds and consists of Al howling the title twice and the word “baby” countless times over a greasy, sleazy, lascivious proto-punk blues riff before a skipped-record-needle sound effect ends the track, you know, the kind that invariably broadcasts that some tomfoolery and shenanigans are afoot when it’s included in the trailer for a broad comedy.
The track owes its curious, unnecessary existence to Al being unable to license Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” for a scene in UHF. So Al recorded some new music to take its place that may not be as catchy but is much less problematic in its depiction of Asian culture. This made me think about the enormous role chance and fate play in Al’s career.”
“There are, alas, some things that not even a man as accomplished and driven as Al can do. […]“She Drives Like Crazy”, meanwhile, illustrates that while Al possesses an extraordinary, unique skill set, singing confidently in an otherworldly, Roland Gift-like falsetto is not part of it.
That wouldn’t be a problem except that Al’s fierce devotion to recreating the songs he’s parodying as closely and meticulously as possible means that when he’s parodying Fine Young Cannibals he needs to replicate Gift’s falsetto. That is a very tall order, because if you do not have a natural falsetto, singing that high can be incredibly challenging, if not downright impossible.”
” “Generic Blues” begins with its down and out yet surprisingly and refreshingly reasonable singer moaning only the first in a series of blues cliches he then immediately subverts. In this case, the bluesman begins with an opening so familiar and ubiquitous that it could be deemed downright generic: “I woke up this morning…”
It’s an opening gambit that inspires a certain automatic suspense. We know that this blues-stricken man woke up in the morning, sure, but then what? Al is all about cleverly upending expectations here so he immediately negates what little action has happened in the song by specifying that after waking up in the morning, he went right back to bed.”
Tasha Robinson, Genevieve Koski, Scott Tobias, and Keith Phipps on Battle of Algiers and Detroit for episodes 90 and 91 of The Next Picture Show podcast:
Robinson: “This is a tremendously effective film. It’s beautifully shot, the black-and-white is incredibly intense, the staging is incredibly intense[…] I didn’t love it as a film, in toto, I think in part, just because of the lack of a sense of any strong characters or any strong point of view. I had a perpetual desire to have some idea of what was going on in these peoples’ heads.”
Phipps: I found the journalistic approach both fascinating and upsetting, and also, kind of a limitation to this film, which I admired in many ways greatly. I was expecting to have a Zero Dark Thirty-like experience where this was revelatory in some way, and it wasn’t that, but I do admire this film.
Koski: “We see these events. There is video of police brutality. This is not a hidden thing to us or, especially, to black people who experience this in their communities, and I think that’s where a lot of the criticisms of irresponsibility on the movie’s part come from, and that it seems to be holding it up for the benefit, honestly, of white audiences to make us uncomfortable. And it succeeds in that respect, but did it need to be done?”