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  • Barry Lyndon

    Barry Lyndon

    ★★½

    Formerly my choice for greatest movie ever made; it did nothing for me on this viewing. Strange to have had to be on the defensive for this film (as much as one needs to defend a figure as endlessly praised as Kubrick) for so long and then to came back around to it and find myself sympathizing with all the same criticisms of Kubrick/Lyndon that I had long since debunked as a youngster--the emotional distance, the cosmic indifference, the cruel…

  • Torch Song Trilogy

    Torch Song Trilogy

    Can't believe I hadn't heard of this! Lovely film. Centers around Fierstein's performance, which is a knockout. Most performers would try to draw a contrast between Arnold's onstage and offstage behavior, showing the "real" human being that lies behind the performer, but instead Fierstein leans heavily into performativity in moments that might easily lend themselves to naturalism--his lack of confidence at the bar when he first meets Ed, for example. It both avoids making a tragedy out of his drag…

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  • Black Panther

    Black Panther

    I think it would be interesting to write a longer essay on the way the black radical is almost always positioned in mainstream Hollywood films as the villain (or, at most, the foil to the protagonist) whose outrage we are made to understand and empathize with but who we are ultimately able to disavow because of the existence of a hero who mitigates that rage in an attempt to affect change through existing systems and institutions. You see it in…

  • La La Land

    La La Land

    ½

    There's a moment early on this film that nicely summarizes Damien Chazelle's approach to music and art: Ryan Gosling, sitting at his piano, puts on a jazz record, which begins with a complicated piano riff. He stops the record, plays the riff on his piano exactly as heard on the record, messes up, then spins back the record, replays the opening, and mimics it again. It's the same methodology behind the "Play one wrong note and you DIE" premise of…