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  • Boogie Nights

    Boogie Nights

    I first saw this during its theatrical run--on my birthday, if I remember right--and today I feel the same way about it as I did then, a lifetime ago. That's rare for me: I've been through so many phases as a cinephile, each one involving much rethinking and visceral rewiring, that very few movies carry the feel of my first viewing of them.

    I imagine that every serious, active, critical movie lover has films that they cherish without ignoring their…

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Manchester by the Sea

    Here's a film that, for me, is as fun to talk around as it is to talk about. While watching, and enjoying, it I kept thinking about how so much value in cinephilic discourse is placed on the foregrounding of artifice. Classical Hollywood is loved for its lack of realism, and for the way standardized production served to throw personal style into relief; and with nearly every major auteur besides, what's admired is heavy formal intervention. What we cinephiles seem…

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  • In a Year with 13 Moons

    In a Year with 13 Moons

    So much to praise about this film, and most of its virtues are common in Fassbinder's work: the unbridled negativity; the rigorous framing of actors within their surroundings; the intellectualized approach to melodrama; the combination of sarcasm and deep, sincere feeling, to the negation of neither. But while works like Fear Eats the Soul, say, or Love is Colder then Death put forward simple, tightly focused narratives, this movie is dense, novelistic, and thickly populated. Fassbinder's Brechtian directness is there,…

  • American Sniper

    American Sniper

    In many ways this is the strongest Eastwood I've seen. The narrow focus of the story, against a large historical backdrop, turns a man's psychology into the stuff of an epic. But that's the problem as well: the insularity appears selfish. The near-exclusive focus on Kyle's martyrdom--first mental, then mortal--may appear more innocent in future times, when the reality of an immoral war has faded. But I can't separate the movie's blinkered perspective from typical American obliviousness, and it's galling…