Küss mich, Dummkopf (1964) – Filmkritik

Das Drehbuch-Duo par excellence Billy Wilder und I. A. L. Diamond, aus dessen Feder weltweite Erfolge stammen wie DAS APARTMENT oder MANCHE MÖGEN’S HEISS, sollte mit diesem Film zum ersten Mal Schiffbruch bei Kritikern und Publikum erleiden. Aber warum war das so? Billy Wilder gab selber zu, sich nie mit dem Scheitern des Films auseinandergesetzt zu haben, denn für ihn ging es damals wie am Fließband zum nächsten Projekt. Wenn man sich KÜSS MICH, DUMMKOPF über 50 Jahre nach dem Kinostart anschaut, ist man schlichtweg begeistert mit welcher Raffinesse diese Geschichte erzählt wird und mit welcher Offensichtlichkeit sexuelle und schmierige Momente des Starkults angesprochen werden. Das alles wird in eine Komödie gepackt, mit hochklassiger Besetzung aufgeführt und in einem Tempo erzählt, dass man sich beim Abspann fragt, wo die zwei Stunden hin sind.

Küss mich, Dumkopf (1964)
Dean Martin als Dino // © VOCOMO Movies

Handlung

Orville Spooner (Ray Walston) kann sich eigentlich nicht beschweren. Er ist Klavierlehrer, hat ein schönes Haus, ist im Ort ein geschätzter Nachbar und hat eine bildschöne Frau. Wäre da nicht diese ständige Eifersucht, die ständig an ihm nagt, dass Ehefrau Zelda (Felicia Farr) sich nach fünf Jahren Ehe langweilt und zum Beispiel mit dem Milchmann durchbrennt. Sein Freund und Tankstellenwart Barney (Cliff Osmond) hat das Leben im Wüstenkaff Climax satt und will als Songschreiber Karriere machen. Orville und er haben bereits mit vielen ohrwurmlastigen Songs bei den großen Plattenlabels angefragt, aber die scheinen nur ihre Briefmarken für die Rücksendung zu stehlen. Durch einen Zufall schlittert der berühmte Sänger Dino (Dean Martin) in die Einöde und nachdem Barney beim Cabrio nachgeholfen hat, ist Dino in Climax gestrandet. Plan ist es, dem Frauenhelden ein paar von ihren Songs unterzujubeln, aber Dino hat kein Interesse an neuen Lieder, sondern an neuen Errungenschaften im Bett. Da kommt ihm Orvilles Ehefrau sehr gelegen. Die Gefahr des lüsternen Stars in seinem Haus erkennend, tauscht Orville Zelda schnell gegen die käufliche Pistolen-Polly (Kim Novak) aus der umtriebigen Dorfkneipe „Belly-Button“ aus. Und der chaotische Abend nimmt seinen Lauf.

Küss mich, Dumkopf (1964)
Orville Spooner (Ray Walston), Dino (Dean Martin) und Polly (Kim Novak) // © VOCOMO Movies

Ganz klar ein Wilder

Allein schon die Thematik des Star-Business und dem Verlangen nach einer leichten Nummer, die mit wahre Liebe aufgewogen wird, sind typisch für einen Film von Billy Wilder. In KÜSS MICH, DUMMKOPFgeht es aber noch um viel mehr. Die Handlung hat so viel Substanz, dass Hollywood dieser Tage eine ganze Rom-Com-Filmreihe damit aus dem Boden hätte stanzen können. Zuallererst ist da Dean Martin, der ganz offensichtlich sein Abbild in den Boulevard-Blättern spielt. Immer einen Witz auf den Lippen, keine Manieren – er ascht auch mal auf den Boden des Schlafzimmers von Orville – schläft tagsüber und rennt jeder schönen Frau hinterher, ob Ehefrau oder Bordsteinschwalbe. Er scheint auch nicht im Geringsten an das Nein einer Dame gewöhnt zu sein. Wenn er einmal ein Ziel hat, setzt er die einfachsten Taktiken ein, um seine Hände an die weiblichen Kurven zu bekommen. Umso schöner ist es hier mitanzusehen, dass er bei Polly, ausgerechnet der Prostituierten auf Granit beißt.

Küss mich, Dumkopf (1964)
Dino (Dean Martin) und Polly (Kim Novak) // © VOCOMO Movies

Im Film wird der Erfolg auch mit sexueller Dienstleistung gemessen. Da denken die Herren doch ganz offenkundig nach, die eigene Ehefrau als „Abendunterhaltung“ für den Star herzugeben, nur um ins Geschäft zu kommen. Man ist an geschichtliche Vereinbarungen erinnert, wie auch in DIE BOUNTY, als Anthony Hopkins das Geschäftliche mit einer der Ehefrauen vom Häuptling durch Beischlaf besiegeln soll. Aber Wilder prangert diesen Umstand nicht an, sondern brennt erst einmal ein Witzfeuerwerk nach dem anderen ab. Zum Beispiel, wenn Orville ganz direkt seine Frau, nun die Prostituierte Polly, Dino in die Arme legt. Er soll ihr Gewicht schätzen. Ja, da kommt Viehzüchter-Mentalität auf. Der eigentliche Kniff im Drehbuch ist jedoch, wie sich Kim Novak als Polly in die Sympathie der Zuschauer und der von Orville spielt. Ihre einfache Art, der simple Wunsch nach einem Auto, um den Ort wieder verlassen zu können und ihr Wunsch nach einer festen Beziehung, wollen wir ihr nach den ersten Minuten alle gern erfüllen.

Küss mich, Dumkopf (1964)
Pistolen-Polly als Hausfrau (Kim Novak) //© VOCOMO Movies

Lady-Show

KÜSS MICH, DUMMKOPF ist trotz der starken männlichen Rollen vor allem eine Show der Frauen. Sie geben nicht nur am Ende ihren Körper für die Liebe her, nicht zwingend an den Geliebten, sondern sind im ganzen Film die institutionelle Vernunft. Wenn Orville versucht einen Streit vom Zaun zu brechen, nur um Zelda aus dem Haus zu bekommen, nimmt sie ihn kaum ernst und bereitet sich erstmal auf ein nachmittägliches Nümmerchen vor. Auch zum Ende des Films gibt es durchaus Potential für einen „Catfight“, aber die beiden Damen bleiben besonnen, kochen sich einen Kaffee und klären die Fehler der Nacht mit wirtschaftlicher Genauigkeit. Wenn beide Damen sich gleich zu Beginn begegnet wären, wäre der Film mit demselben Ergebnis nach 30 Minuten vorbei gewesen.

Küss mich, Dumkopf (1964)

“ONE MAN’S TRASH IS ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE” – DIE ÄSTHETIK DES UMWELTBEWUSSTSEINS

Im Rahmen der Nippon Connection Frankfurt am Main und im Programm der NIPPON DOCS AWARDs 2019, lief der Film “From all corners” von Regisseur Ryusuke Okajima.

Nicht nur die sympathische Produzentin Yuko Shiomaki war anwesend, auch der Hauptdarsteller Fuyuki Shimazu kam angereist, um Werbung für seine Leidenschaft zu machen: dem nachhaltigen Weiterverwenden von gebrauchten Kartons in Form gestylter Geldbörsen. Der Karton-Designer ist ein zeitgemäßer und warmherziger Freak, der für seine Leidenschaft brennt und mit sehr viel Charme und Humor die Beziehung zwischen Mensch und Objekt (natürlich Karton!) mit Bedeutung aufladen möchte.

Die beiden mögen sich, das wird schon bei der Begrüßung in der Naxoshalle deutlich, Yuko Shiomaki hat auch in einigen Szenen die Kamera geführt und man hört es, immer wenn sie im Film aus dem Off ein Kommentar in die Szene hineinwirft: da treffen sich zwei Menschen, die über den Karton “Potato”, auf welchem in gelbgrün drei Kartoffelmänner abgebildet sind, herzhaft lachen können.

Sie beschließen, sich auf Spurensuche nach der Geschichte von diesem speziellen Karton zu begeben: über die Produktionsfirma, der “Heimat”, bis zu dem “Vater”, dem damaligen Designer, der diesen Karton entworfen hat. Der Karton strahlt so viel Wärme aus: der Designer muss ein ganz besonders warmherziger Mensch sein, erklärt Fuyuki Shimazu überzeugt.

Während seiner Reise wird immer wieder ein wenig aus seinem Leben erzählt. So erklärt sein ehemaliger Firmenchef, warum sie ihn damals überhaupt eingestellt haben: denn er sprach, direkt von der Uni kommend, schon da die ganze Zeit nur von Kartons und alle waren verwundert über seine Spleens. Aber er war äußerst kreativ! Auf seinem Schreibtisch stapelten sich zwar immer mehr Kartons, aber er war sympathisch, an allem interessiert und konnte sich mit jedem leicht befreunden. Selbst zu einem Kundengespräch nahm er einmal einen Karton mit und maß diesem mehr Wert bei, als dem Gespräch an sich: aber er konnte großartige Zaubertricks und am Ende merkten sich die Kunden seinen Namen mehr, als die Namen von allen anderen. “Ein echter Künstler”. Der ehemalige Chef schmunzelt: “Aber er war bei uns damals nicht der einzige Angestellte, der verrückt war.”

Das Kinopublikum lacht herzhaft bei den lebhaft geschilderten Geschichten. Diese entstehen nicht, wenn man gradlinig einer gewünschten Norm der Masse folgt. Mit seinen inneren Werten, Talenten und Besonderheiten, die Fuyuki Shimazu ausmachen, scheint er auf genau die richtigen Orte und Menschen getroffen zu sein. Er steigt in der Firma schnell auf. Und steigt schließlich aus. Als Designer macht er sich selbstständig und will sich nun voll und ganz seinen Kartons widmen. Detailliert wird gezeigt, wie er seine Geldbörsen fertigt, die er mittlerweile für umgerechnet circa 80 Euro das Stück weltweit verkaufen kann. Andächtig leise wird es plötzlich im Kinosaal. Sorgfältig und liebevoll wird jede Ecke gefalzt, geschnitten und gefaltet. Er vergleicht den Moment der Fertigstellung mit einem “Brot, frisch aus dem Ofen”. Stolz wird die gelbe Kartoffel-Geldbörse in die Kamera gestreckt.

In seiner Selbstständigkeit hat er begonnen immer weiter um die Welt zu reisen und aus jedem Land Kartons zu sammeln. Und jeder davon hat einen eigenständigen Charakter. So viele Gefühle, die in einem Design versteckt sind. Das hat ihn schon während seines Studiums immer fasziniert. Wenn die Kartons neu sind, dann hat er keinerlei Interesse an ihnen. Er hätte sich zum Beispiel nie vorstellen können, selbst einen neuen Karton zu designen. Wozu auch? Der Wert liegt für ihn ja schon auf der Straße und kann gefunden und gesammelt werden. Und zu diesem Wert gehört für ihn essenziell auch die Erinnerungen, die in dem Material verborgen liegen. Die Anekdoten. Die Erinnerungen. Die Menschen.

Mit einem charmanten und liebevollen Messie-Verhalten begutachtet er jeden Karton, der ihm vor die Augen kommt. Keiner wird abgewertet oder als “schlecht” definiert. Alle haben eine Bedeutung in dem System ihrer Erscheinung. Denn was meint schon “gut” und “schlecht” und kann nicht jeder für sich diesen Wert selbst festlegen?

Und am Ende der Reise, nach viel Gelächter, kommen nun viele Tränen: denn Fuyuki Shimazu sitzt schließlich dem Designer, dem Ziel seiner Reise, gegenüber und überreicht die Geldbörse würdevoll an ihn. Seine Frau ist sichtlich sehr bewegt. Der Designer reicht sie an sie weiter. Viele Fragen, aber keine Antworten und man ahnt schon, bevor es noch ausgesprochen wird, dass etwas nicht stimmt. Später klärt Fuyuki Shimazu auf: der Mann hat mittlerweile Alzheimer. Die letzten fünf Jahre waren für seine Frau sehr hart. Ein berührender Moment. Die Wärme des Kartons, das Besondere und Außergewöhnliche, das Menschen zum Lachen oder, wie hier, zum Weinen bringt.

Seine Geldbörsen sind mehr als ein weiter verwertetes, neues Aufbewahrungsmedium: sie sind Kommunikationsmittel. Auch wenn manche Erlebnisse in Vergessenheit geraten, entstehen dafür neue Momente. Er gibt selbst den Menschen das Gefühl etwas Bleibendes, einen Wert hergestellt zu haben. Eine Bedeutung und damit auch einen Wert in dieser Welt zu haben. Nicht nur die Objekte sind wertvoll.

Auch, wenn der Film in einigen Einstellungen zu einer banalen Werbeshow für Fuyuki Shimazus Workshops verkommt und manche Kameraeinstellungen einen etwas aufmerksameren Blick hätten gebrauchen können. Auch, wenn man den Film im Schnitt noch etwas mehr verdichten hätte können und ein paar offensichtliche Wiederholungen (alle japanische Boxen sind Kawai!!!) überflüssig waren: Fuyuki Shimazu trägt als Hauptfigur auch hier seine Leidenschaft und seine Ambitionen würdevoll und glaubwürdig ehrlich mit sich durch die Welt. Und dadurch bekommt auch der Film einen Wert.

Wenn er alle Länder bereist und von überall Kartons gesammelt hat, dann möchte er ein Museum damit eröffnen, wird er später noch persönlich im Gespräch in der Naxoshalle erzählen. Er hat sich einen blauen Karton unter den Arm geklemmt, den er vor der Halle gefunden hat und kaum loslassen möchte. Das Blau ist doch ganz besonders und einzigartig! Auch hier macht er das, was er am besten kann: sich mit Menschen befreunden und seine Leidenschaft teilen und weitergeben. Bei der Fragerunde sagt eine Dame, dass sie nie wieder mit demselben Blick Kartons ansehen wird. Die Ästhetik des Umweltbewusstseins fängt klein an, aber es wächst stabil, zusammen mit den Menschen, und schärft den Blick für gemeinsame, andere Einstellungen.

fromAllCorners4

Filmkritik Sherlock Gnomes (Blu-Ray)

Ja, ich habe Gnomeo und Julia damals gesehen, als dieser auf DVD und Blu-ray erschienen ist. Und ich erinnere mich, dass mir die Idee des Gartenzwergs-Settings auch recht viel Spaß gemacht hat. Aber darüber hinaus erinnere ich mich an nicht viel.

Dennoch hat es ausgereicht, sich auch beim DVD und Blu-ray Start zu „Sherlock Gnomes“ wieder vor dem Fernseher einzufinden.
Hinzu kommt, dass auch unsere Kinder natürlich immer für einen Filmeabend zu haben sind und wenn der Film auch nur ansatzweise interessant aussieht (es reicht meist aus, dass es einfach ein Animationsfilm ist;)) wird gar nicht lange gefackelt.

Wir finden uns wieder ein in der Welt der Gartenzwerge. Gnomeo und Julia sind mitsamt dem Rest der Gemeinschaft vom Lande in die große Stadt London gezogen. Kaum im neuen Heim angekommen geht es auch schon darum den neuen Lebensraum wieder wohnlich zu machen. Doch ein ganz anderes Ereignis wirft seine Schatten voraus: in ganz London verschwinden auf unerklärlicherweise alle Gartenzwerge. Auch Gnomeo und Julia müssen eines Tages feststellen, dass ihre Freunde wie vom Erdboden verschluckt sind. Ihre einzige Hoffnung ist Sherlock Gnomes, London‘s Meisterdetektiv. Dieser hat die Fährte bereits aufgenommen und erhält nun tatkräftige Unterstützung.

Filmkritik zu „Sherlock Gnomes“

Sherlock Gnomes führt fort was Gnomeo und Julia begonnen hat. Von beiden Filmen erwarte ich nicht, dass sie noch Jahre später en detail in Erinnerung bleiben oder ich gar Stellen rezitiere. Geschweige denn, dass die Kinder noch Anekdoten erzählen. Aber für einen unterhaltsamen Abend hat es vollkommen ausgereicht.

Die Miniaturwelt der Gartenzwerge erlaubt einige lustige Späße und wird bis dato auch noch nicht langweilig.
Darüber hinaus sorgt es nochmals für frischen Wind, dass für die Story das komplette Setting nach London verschoben wurde.

Als großes Plus kommt dann noch hinzu dass für den Charakter des Sherlock Gnomes (und nebenbei gesagt auch für den des Watson) die bekannten Snychronstimmen aus der TV Serie beauftragt worden sind. Und nicht nur das. Auch die Art und Weise wie Sherlock sich verhält, denkt und an den Fall herangeht erinnert nicht nur zufällig an das menschliche Vorbild.
Besonders toll umgesetzt sind die Reisen in Sherlock‘s Erinnerungen- und Gedankenwelt. Toll visualisiert und das macht nicht nur den Erwachsenen Spaß.

Besonders für den Kleinsten in unserer Runde (knapp 5 Jahre alt) gab es zwischenzeitlich ein paar spannende Stellen, aber diese wurden recht schnell aufgelöst und waren am Ende halb so wild.

Die Frage in die Runde, wie sie denn Sherlock Gnomes fanden, wurde mit einem kurzen „Gut.“ beantwortet. Wer ebenfalls Kinder hat weiß, dass dies schon fast einem euphorischen Ausbruch gleichkommt;) Aber im Ernst, ich denke die Kinder hatten alle ihren Spaß am Film.

Aus erwachsenen Sicht bleibt zu sagen, dass „Sherlock Gnomes“, genau wie sein Vorgänger, gut gemacht ist und er sogar durchaus „richtige“ Spannung zum Ende hin aufbaut.
Er genügt als nette Abendunterhaltung ist aber kein Meilenstein der Animations – oder Kinderfilmgeschichte.

Filmkritik zu ANNA (2019) von Luc Besson: Die Geschichte eines heillosen Wunderkindes

Ein besseres Leben wünscht Anna Poliatova (Sasha Luss) sich, und ihr Wunsch wird bald erhört –zumindest augenscheinlich. Die junge, verwaiste Frau, die mit dem kriminellen Draufgänger Petyr (Alexander Andrejewitsch Petrow) unter miserablen Umständen in Moskau zusammenlebt, wird in ihrer misslichen Lage von KGB-Agent Alex Tschenkov (Luke Evans) aufgesucht. Der smarte Agent erkennt Annas Struktur schnell: Sie trägt ein einerseits zerstörendes Wesen und andererseits einen starken Überlebenswillen in sich. Sie kämpft um ihren Traum von einem lebenswerten Leben, und ist bereit dafür über Leichen zu gehen – und zwar wortwörtlich. Dazu braucht sie nur jemanden, der sich ihrer annimmt und sie steuert. Tschenkov schlägt sein vielversprechendes Wunderkind der unterkühlten und sarkastischen Handlerin Olga (Helen Mirren) vor, die Anna nach einigem Zögern als Auftragskillerin einstellt. Es wirkt grotesk, wenn Olga später zu Anna sagt, dass diese ihr wie eine Tochter erscheine. Bald schon erhält das „Findelkind“ grausame Aufträge von der Ersatzmutter.
Filmkritik zu ANNA (2019) von Luc Besson: Die Geschichte eines heillosen Wunderkindes
Doch zunächst braucht Anna einen offiziellen Beruf zur Tarnung. Deshalb lässt sie sich dank ihrer Schönheit als Model rekrutieren und steht damit in der Öffentlichkeit der Modebranche. So weilt sie zwischen zwei kontrastreichen Welten, zwischen einem glamourösen Dasein der Modeszene und dem Agieren in einer dunklen Welt voller Abgründe und Machtspielchen. Die schöne, unschuldige und bemitleidenswerte Anna wird von ihren beiden unterschiedlichen Auftraggebern in eine mörderische Puppe ohne jegliches Gewissen verwandelt. Als Untermalung hierfür dienen vor allem die Kostüme und Perücken, die sie sowohl als Model als auch als Killerin trägt. Kontinuierlich nimmt sie verschiedene Rollen ein, um über ihre wahre Identität hinwegzutäuschen.
Dieses Täuschungsmanöver lebt sie jedoch auch ohne Kostüm und Perücke in ihrer Liebesbeziehung mit Model-Kollegin Maud (Lera Abova) aus, die sich in Anna verliebt und mit ihr ein gemeinsames Leben aufbauen möchte – natürlich ohne zu ahnen, dass ihre Liebste ein zweites, etwas unreizenderes Gesicht trägt. Das Führen eines geheimen Doppellebens, das Schaffen konstruierter Scheinwelten sowie das gewissenlose Töten gehören zum regulären Alltag Annas, der man, würde man ihr auf der Straße begegnen, sicherlich kaum ihre zahllosen, blutigen Vergehen zutrauen würde. Aber es sind die unscheinbaren und kleinen Dinge, auf die es oftmals ankommt. So wird Anna nach der Ermordung eines Waffenhändlers von dem smarten CIA-Vorsteher Lenny Miller (Cillian Murphy) anhand eines Details ihrer Körperhaltung entlarvt und anschließend erfolgreich rekrutiert. Damit wird sie zur Doppelagentin, und erreicht unverhofft eine Möglichkeit ihrem Traum von Freiheit näher zu rücken, indem sie beauftragt wird den Kopf des KGB auszuschalten – den Mann, laut dem sie den KGB niemals lebendig verlassen könnte.
Anna ist die Verkörperung einer Doppelgestalt. Der französische Produzent und Regisseur Luc Besson hat mit ihr eine kontrastreiche Gestalt erschaffen, die in ihrer ausweglosen Situation einer instrumentalisierenden Gesellschaft zum Opfer wird.
Das Model Sasha Luss, bekannt auch aus ihrem 2017 erschienen Filmdebüt „Valerian – Die Stadt der tausend Planeten“, ebenfalls gedreht unter der Leitung von Luc Besson, spielt in „Anna“ ihre erste Titelrolle. Sie begeistert durch ihre Wandlungsfähigkeit, und beweist damit ihr schauspielerisches Talent.
Die Kamera bleibt während des Filmes nah an der Hauptfigur dran, verlässt sie keinen Augenblick lang, überwacht jeden ihrer Schritte, wie auch die Handlerin Olga, die Anna ebenfalls per Kamera beobachtet. Überhaupt spielt die Kamera in dem Film eine große Rolle. Anna wird auch von Miller und seinen Kollegen beobachtet. Immer wieder werden Aufzeichnungen vorgeführt. Die Kamera wird zur Metapher für das wachsame Auge eines totalitären Regimes. George Orwell lässt grüßen. Die Zuschauer begleiten Anna also ebenfalls durchweg. Jedoch erfahren sie oftmals erst durch eine eingeschaltete Rückblende, wie es zu einer Situation kommen konnte. Besson erzählt auf diese Weise eine Geschichte, die in sich verschachtelt und doch strukturiert erscheint. Es ist eine Geschichte, die zugleich fasziniert und abschreckt. Abschreckend wirkt sie vor allem deshalb, weil Besson in diesem Film mehr noch als in seinen anderen Filmen zu Brutalität und Gewalt greift. In zahllose tödliche Gemetzel verwickelt er seine Heldin, er zwingt sie bin an den Rand dessen, was zumutbar erscheint – vor allem seelisch. In schnellen und kurzen Sequenzen werden eine Vielzahl an von Anna ausgeführten Morden gezeigt. Anna legt ihr Gewissen zunehmend ab. Hatte sie jemals eines?
Ihrem Gefühlsleben wird in dem Film insgesamt zu wenig Raum gegeben. Ihre, angesichts ihres anstrengenden und belastenden Doppellebens, sich entwickelnde Unzufriedenheit verwandelt sich nur selten in Auflehnung, beispielsweise als sie den Fotografen aus Wut auf den Boden schlägt und ihn mit seiner blutenden Nase zwingt zu lächeln, während sie ihn fotografiert. Damit dreht sie die gewohnte Situation um und verkehrt die Machtverhältnisse.
Die zwischengeschalteten Liebesszenen können die wachsende Leere in Anna nicht füllen. Sie sind durchtränkt von reiner Triebhaftigkeit, jedenfalls seitens Anna, und haben nichts mit Liebe zu tun. Weder die lebenslustige Maud, noch die beiden smarten Agenten Tschenkov und Miller, die allesamt Annas Charme und ihrer Schönheit verfallen, können sie vollends für sich gewinnen. Anna ist und bleibt eine unnahbare Einzelkämpferin.

20 Must-Read Blogs for Film Buffs

Films, like food, are one of those things that are almost as nice to take in as they are to read about (as opposed to say, falling in love or winning the lotto.) With this in mind, we decided to compile a list of mouthwatering film blogs to supplement (and hopefully spice up) your film diet.

We put this list together following a few simple rules. To be considered, a blog had to offer both nutritious and tasty content and a relatively enticing presentation (think zucchini cupcakes, or the most excellent NFB.ca blog. You get the idea).

So without any more ado, here is our Official List of 20 Must-Read Blogs for Film Buffs, divided by interest category.

(And guys, please don’t hate me for failing to include your personal fave. We all know what the comments section is there for.)

DOCUMENTARIES

The Documentary Blog

A site created by and for documentary fans and filmmakers, The Documentary Blog wants to become “your quintessential source for news and reviews pertaining specifically to documentary films”. Bonus points for the excellent podcasts and choice headquarters location (St.Catharines, ON). Quality Canadian content is something I celebrate all day, everyday.

IFC – Movies

The IFC is the Independent Film Channel, an American TV network that airs independent film, docs and series. This is their blog. It mainly focuses on content other than their own and is updated with almost alarming regularity. (There were 10 posts published yesterday alone.)

PBS’s POV Blog

The POV Blog is all about documentaries. It seeks to cover “how they’re made, what they’re about, why we love them.” Between “interviews with documentary filmmakers, sneak peaks of docs-in-progress, guides to other projects and in-depth articles around issues, events and ideas related to documentary film”, there’s enough quality content there to keep you of the the arcades for days. (Also, I’m a total sucker for that tapioca and grey-blue colour-scheme.)

DocMovies

Covering topics including DIY, Digital Distribution, and New Media, this blog provides updates on the state and evolution of filmmaking in the digital age. One caveat, however. The excellent content, is sort of let down by the meh presentation. (What’s with the huge empty space under posts?) This is the clearly the zucchini cupcake with no sugar nor icing. (But hey! It’s good for you!)

 

ANIMATION/SHORTS

Cartoon Brew

Cartoon Brew, which celebrates its 8th birthday today, is a trove of quality information for animation freaks and geeks. They feature a lot of exclusive content, including ours, sometimes.

Short of the Week

Purporting to share the “The Greatest Stories Being Told’, Short of the Week is also the prettiest of them all. I enjoy most things about this blog, from the contributor’s writing style and the topics broached down to the fonts used and the images selected to illustrate posts. This one is the gift that keeps giving.

 

FILMMAKING TIPS/HELPFUL STUFF

Filmmaker Magazine

Filmmaker Magazine is a quarterly publication published by the independent filmmaker project (ifp). It is super savvy, and with its many web exclusives, director interviews and columns, way more than “just a blog”.

Film Studies for Free

Can’t afford the time or money to go sit in film school? A good place to start feeling less bad about that is this “pluralist, pro bono, and purely positive” online resource for aspiring filmmakers. Yes, it’s pretty nerdy (good nerdy) but then again that doesn’t exactly come as a surprise coming from a blogger who introduces herself as someone who always “dreamed of being a Borgesian librarian” when she grew up. Um, yeah.

 

FILM NEWS/MUSINGS

Roger Ebert’s Journal 

Roger Ebert: the man, the legend, the blog. This journal is the online version of the film review column Ebert has published in the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. (Beat that, everyone.)

Spout

Part of the Indiewire blog family, Spout is a neat little blog about “trends, buzz, themes and other topics of interest to the film fan who isn’t always looking for assisted marketing, conventional criticism or Hollywood reportage.” It could be updated more often (last post was February 29, shame shame!) but when it is, it’s always worth it.

Press Play

Another Indiewire blog, Press Play focuses on “video essays and critical, personal writing about movies, TV, music, comics and whatever else interests its contributors.” (I really dig that “whatever else” part.)

Bleader

Aside from the title, which reminds me of a person who bleeds a lot and the sound a goat makes when talking to another goat (whereas it’s probably something way more benign, like for example the contraction of  the words blog + reader), this blog is the film section of the Chicago Reader, Chicago’s largest free weekly newspaper. It’s solid.

Film Quarterly

A publication of the University of California Press, Film Quarterly is a super slick and very on-point film mag. Check out their Web Exclusives section. It’s full of stuff that will make you look and sound smart at the dinner table.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center blog

The Film Society of Lincoln Center was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, to recognize and support new filmmakers, and to enhance awareness, accessibility and understanding of the art among a broad and diverse film going audience. This is their blog. Right now it looks “all SXSW everything”, but that should normally pass.

The Guardian Film Blog

Lest I be accused of promoting only North American outlets, here is a British one. (A choice one at that.)

 

ON THE VINTAGE TIP

Cinebeats: Confessions of a Cinephile

Cinebeats chronicles one woman’s love affair with 60s and 70s-era cinema. That woman is Kimberly Lindbergs. I have no idea who she is, but I am super partial to her style. The vintage photos alone are worth a courtesy visit.

davekehr.com: reports from the lost continent of cinephilia

This blog, written by one Dave Kehr, is a totally trippy stroll down films-you-may-or-may-not remember-but definitely-should lane. The writing is snappy and the huge, hi-res images make my heart go pitter-pat.

 

SCREENWRITING

Scriptshadow: reviewing the latest scripts in Hollywood

About one part interview and 4 parts review, this blog does exactly what it sets out to do – and well.

Go Into the Story

Penned by Scott Myers, a guy who’s written nearly 30 projects for every major Hollywood studio and broadcast network since selling his spec script K-9 in 1987. The author is smart, insightful and funny and seems to do high and low-brow with equal ease. I liked this recent post about lunch meetings in Hollywood (The Business of Screewriting: Let’s do Lunch!), thought it has nothing to do with film, or food, or anything else for that matter.

The Top Film Criticism Sites: An Annotated Blog Roll

Classical Hollywood fetishism has found a most enchanting ambassador. Farran Smith Nehme of The Self-Styled Siren turns the articulation of cliché and convention into a sport—no surprise she’s chosen melodrama as her champion underdog and counts Max Ophüls and Douglas Sirk among her favorite directors. A witty, working mother of three (the blog originated during afternoon naptime), the Siren is a unique and refreshing voice in a field often prone to nostalgic vacuity or esoteric one-upmanship. An “Anecdote of the Week” feature showcases her extensive bibliographic endeavors. Her obituaries are the most dependably poetic on the scene. Whether dusting off forgotten gems and industry players or providing fresh analysis on the already canonical, the Siren speaks with the grit, gumption, and savvy of the pre-Code ladies she so admires. Her extensive research is a valuable corollary to the Hollywood Babylon school of salacious folklore; not that the blog is without juice (delicious bon mots care of her beloved George Sanders) or mystery (a reverential moment of silence for Charles Boyer’s “incomparable way with a hat”). The Siren abandoned anonymity upon co-programming a series for TCM, but lifting the veil, in true Merry Widow style, has only furthered the blossoming of her appeal: a recent blogathon hosted in association with the National Film Preservation Foundation has raised $13,500 and counting. Not only is the Siren the best film geek friend you ever had, but she’s an increasingly powerful force.—Brynn White

Strictly Film School
No one embodies cinephilia in the Internet age better than the pseudonymous Acquarello (aka Pascual Espiritu), a self-described “NASA flight systems design engineer” who single-handedly creates all the content for Strictly Film School. Unapologetically auteurist in design, Strictly Film School’s biggest draw is its jaw-droppingly extensive Director’s Database that boasts over 500 names, from canonical faves like Chantal Akerman and Pedro Almodóvar to the less known (but no less worthy) Joaquim Pedro de Andrade and Lisandro Alonso—and that’s just scratching the surface of the As. The directory doesn’t offer bios but instead concise capsules whose brevity is belied by their insights. While online platforms offer practically limitless writing space, Acquarello’s economical and precise prose is something to treasure. And for those looking to venture beyond auteurism, Strictly Film School offers the option to browse reviews by genres (of the academic sort: “Neo-Expressionism,” “Cinema Verité”), themes (“Generational Conflict,” “Aging/Obsolescence/Death”), and images (“Chromatic Shifts – State of Consciousness, Existential Realm” being my personal favorite). “Film-Related Reading Notes” on recently browsed print matter and a “Film Fest Journal” tops off this exhaustively (and exhaustingly) comprehensive site. If only real film schools were as informative and passionate as Strictly Film School.—Cullen Gallagher

Diagonal Thoughts
In the distant future—when we are nothing more than incorporeal abstractions coded into the algorithmic consciousness of a virtual singularity, or blue-skinned, loin-clothed cybersexing flora and fauna with our FireWire pony tails, or whatever!—I sincerely hope that our post-organic nervous systems will occasionally light up to the archived index of Diagonal Thoughts. Media and culture aficionado Stoffel Debuysere, a member of Belgium’s Courtisane collective and co-programmer of its film and video festival, maintains a dense and diligently curated collection of “notes on seeing and being, sound and image, media and memory.” The site presents fresh, often mind-bending findings drawn from the worlds of neuroscience, philosophy, sociology, computer science, cultural studies, and (of course) the cinema. Collating quotations from innumerable sources, Debuysere is much more than a mere cut-and-paster—the rhetorical patchwork of interviews, articles, and program note snippets have a synthetic brilliance all their own, further gilded with Debuysere’s original observations and erudite commentary. Alongside his interest in new media’s ontological collision with human cognition and perceptual reality is a stalwart passion for old-school avant-garde celluloid (lovingly categorized as “Indeterminate Cinema”); recent “Artists in Focus” have included Guy Sherwin, David Gatten, and Morgan Fisher. Tracking the intersecting vectors of technological and aesthetic evolution, Diagonal Thoughts is nothing less than the cinephile’s survival guide for the 21st century.—Jesse P. Finnegan

Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Rumsey Taylor was reared in the hinterlands of rural Kentucky, nurtured by VHS rentals and late-night cable TV. It’s fitting that he would go on to found Not Coming to a Theater Near You, an ambitious online resource for reevaluations of forgotten and fringe cinema. Taylor’s prowess as an editor lies in an innate ability to skirt both irreverent fan-boy pitfalls and highfalutin postgrad navel-gazing; the writing remains doggedly non-academic while retaining a sharp populism and simple elegance often lacking in similar niche sites. Not Coming increased its profile in 2009 by partnering with the NYC revival venue at 92YTribeca, where editors and contributors present public screenings of rare and controversial classics. The site sets itself apart through its assemblage of talented contributors, many of whom are able up-and-comers in New York’s criticism and repertory programming scenes. In addition to reviews, Not Coming offers independent festival coverage, interviews with significant figures in alternative cinema and criticism (filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, animator Don Hertzfeldt, and New Yorker film editor Richard Brody were all recent respondents), as well as comprehensive essays on intriguingly obscure subjects. A recent piece analyzed the rogue cinephilia of underground video mixtapes, most of which are of questionable legal status. It’s rare to find such subjects spotlighted with so much eloquence, and it’s with essays like this that the site really scores.—Benjamin Shapiro

Acidemic 
Acidemic is to be experienced more than summarized. While founder Erich Kuersten will write on oft-discussed blogosphere subjects—down-and-dirty horror pics, Seventies cinema of both mainstream and marginal varieties—these often serve as launching pads for loose-limbed meditations on cultural mores, youth nostalgia or, well, whatever else he wants to talk about. Kuersten’s runaway-train sentence structure and off-the-cuff humor result in some singular insights. (From an appreciation of 1982’s Conan the Barbarian: “The Thulsa Doom serpent cult in the film was a perfect analogy for the hippie movement, with its focus on converting young people to blood orgies and training them to kill their parents . . . For kids wondering why they weren’t growing up drowned in orgies like their older brothers in the 1970s, [it] was the perfect demonization tool.”) But following the snaking paths of his musings proves quite rewarding, not least for the way he intertwines the analytical with the personal. In a defense of Lindsay Lohan, for instance, Kuersten (who has written about his struggles with alcohol) both calls out the public’s gender bias and then offers the oft-soused starlet some AA-inspired solidarity. Full of freewheeling insights, Acidemic gives seemingly familiar material an idiosyncratic spin.—Matthew Connolly

The Academic Hack
At first glance, there’s something intimidating about Michael Sicinski’s website, with its spare design and unadorned capsules of small-print Times New Roman. But as Sicinski’s ever-increasing fan base will attest, appearances can be deceiving. While he may indeed be an academic (he has a background in visual art and teaches university film courses), there’s nothing dry about his writing. Sicinski specializes in avant-garde film—there’s no other critic I know of who can make some of cinema’s most challenging works sound downright inviting—but he writes about Hollywood and art cinema with equal passion, humor, and clarity. His short-form reviews waste not a word; as the father of a young child, he doesn’t have the time to spare. Whether he’s unpacking complicated films with astonishing insight, defending a misunderstood triumph, or tearing down a seemingly unassailable critical favorite, Sicinski’s voice is one of almost scary intelligence—but it’s never haughty or condescending. His writing challenges accepted opinions and inspires reflection and investigation. You can’t ask for much more from a critic.—Matt Noller

Undercurrent
Spartan and straightforward, the online magazine Undercurrent gets by without the hard sell—and that’s no small matter. A labor of love founded by Chris Fujiwara in 2006, Undercurrent is a quintessential small magazine, posting only one or two issues a year yet greatly enriching the world of film criticism. The site has done especially sharp and enjoyable work in the single-theme tribute format: a special section on John Ford, an homage to Danièle Huillet. Fujiwara, an occasional Film Comment contributor and author of several perceptive critical studies (on Tourneur, Preminger, and Jerry Lewis), says that he sees the project partly as “a magazine about film criticism.” Under the aegis of FIPRESCI (The International Federation of Film Critics), the journal’s focus and cosmopolitan character seem fitting, but it’s a real credit to Fujiwara’s editorial hand that Undercurrent transcends professional insiderism. Fujiwara, who grew up in Brooklyn and has lived in Tokyo for the past three years, says he seeks to steer the journal toward examination of the critical scenes in countries outside North America and Europe, and spur more thinking on “the theory and practice of criticism, the ways it gets written and read, in practical terms, and what critics’ goals and ideals are.”—Paul Fileri

DVD Beaver
With its wealth of screen grabs direct from their DVD or Blu-Ray sources, Gary Tooze’s DVD Beaver is the go-to site for home-cinema perfectionists. From bit-rate analyses and run-time certifications to examinations of aspect ratios and image formatting, Beaver’s orgy of tech specs is a cinephilic wet dream. As the next-generation heir to Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog (see separate entry), Tooze has maintained pressure on home-video distributors to keep raising the bar of image and audio quality. Particularly revealing are side-by-side comparisons of a single title’s competing regional releases, in which the often staggering differences in transfer quality have to be seen to be believed. For such reasons, Beaver is both a major advocate of owning a multi-region player and a consumer-reports resource for sorting through the various models. Though reviews can get lost in the sea of advertising necessary to support the independently owned and operated site, once a user gains a little familiarity with the layout, staying updated is easy (and addictive): from the “What’s New” and “Release Calendar” sections to the conversely complementary “Criterions Going Out of Print” alerts. While the site currently focuses on technical evaluations, Tooze applies his unique analytical voice to auteurist critiques in the “Director’s Chair” section and shows off his genre smarts in the “Definitive Film Noir on DVD” resource page.—Ben Simington

Kino Slang
At once a secret history of radical cinema and a secret history of radicals in the cinema, Kino Slang is as much about politics as film. Andy Rector’s selections of text and image capture the moments when history seeps through moving pictures in spite of themselves, revealing for a trembling instant the politics underlying their representation. There’s no preferred “genre” here other than authenticity; posts might combine images and texts from Costa-Gavras with Kenji Mizoguchi or from Jean-Marie Straub with Charles Burnett. As an attempt to excavate the 20th-century political projects that have structured the history of cinema, Kino Slang is often oblique but no less essential for that. Like the flickering images of Chris Marker’s Grin Without a Cat or the tombstones of John Gianvito’s profit motive and the whispering wind, Rector isolates the outliers, those critical voices in the wilderness, and assembles them into a unified trajectory of what might have been—and could be still. Rector’s compilation of discrete cultural moments does more than unearth forgotten episodes of (film) history. More than the sum of its parts, Kino Slang’s posts cumulatively comprise their very own histoire(s)—of cinema, of politics, and of personal artistic commitment.—Dave McDougall

Ludic Despair
Northwestern University professor Jeffery Sconce has devoted his career to the scholarly probing of seedy cinematic underbellies: exploitation flicks, televised trash, and various cult phenomena. Sconce’s blog, billed as “An Index of Co-Morbid Symptoms,” skims lurid treasures off the cesspool of mass media with a timeliness that a critical anthology or symposium could never provide. Ludic’s robust, readable, and topical-to-the-week epistles are distinguished by Sconce’s spry intellectual vigor and playfully acerbic (or acerbically playful) curiosity, not to mention his laser-guided insights and pitch-perfect wit. Speculating as to why the incubators of Avatar seemed so compelled to weigh down a would-be romp with the cement shoes of a “message movie,” Sconce hypothesizes: “Perhaps this stems from a sense of guilt—if someone is going to spend this much money on a film, it should do more than simply grind Cool Ranch Doritos into the spectator’s eyes for two hours.” Dusting off all manner off sub-pop pap and B-grade tawdriness from decades past, Ludic also offers analytical treatises on contemporary concerns: a memorandum on our growing fascination with mall cops; a fiery deflation of the “Balloon Boy” media circus; a dialectical account of the death of “the teenager,” prompted by England’s adoption of the anti-loitering gizmo “the mosquito.” No matter the moving-image netherworlds Sconce navigates, the self-evident absurdity (which would be enough for most cultural commentators) is only the starting point—Sconce’s explications may be funny, but they’re far from a joke. And if you’re still waiting for the definitive appraisal of oddball icon Clint Howard, your day has arrived.—Jesse P. Finnegan

Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule
In a media environment that rewards snark, however joyless, Dennis Cozzalio is an affable and refreshing voice. A father of two who came of age in the heyday of New Hollywood, Cozzalio’s cinematic reference points run as broad and deep as any salaried movie reviewer; but unlike the professionals, who are often required to waste spleen on films toward which they feel indifferent or hostile, Cozzalio has the luxury of focusing on the movies he actually enjoys. In practice this means that the content is delightfully varied: reviews of new releases, coverage of repertory events in the Los Angeles area, nostalgic looks back at trashy gems that won’t even play on cable. As someone who doesn’t believe in the concept of the guilty pleasure, Cozzalio doesn’t approach the “lowbrow” with caustic irony or overcompensating veneration; the oeuvre of Joe Dante is treated on its own terms. Since Cozzalio has a day job, updates can be sporadic, but uninhibited by space limitations or word count, his posts are lengthy and well-illustrated with images. Most impressive, as any dedicated digi-critic will tell you, is the community of commenters and fellow bloggers that have responded to Cozzalio’s work: their robust and insightful engagement lives up to Wired magazine’s Web utopianism.—Violet Lucca

Some Came Running
Glenn Kenny was once a respected critic and editor for Premiere until he became a casualty of capitalism’s war on journalism. Now he finds himself online doing exactly what he wants, no longer beholden to deadlines and column inches. Not that he’s totally happy about that. Kenny has always been ambivalent about the position online criticism holds in the cultural discourse. When he’s at his best, though, he navigates the cyber landscape with the ease of any “digital native” youngster. A regular highlight of his site are the entries on DVD and Blu-Ray releases wherein he scopes out oft-obscure corners of the market for beautiful transfers of forgotten classics. And serious lovers of film criticism can appreciate Kenny’s regular lambasting of his two favorite punching bags, Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells and the New York Press’s Armond White.—Evan Davis

Wright On Film 
Writing with a Bordwellian clarity and analytical rigor that’s perfect for unpacking the components of cinematic form, Benjamin Wright’s site is a fount of smart discourse on modern film aesthetics. Topics range from the character of Michael Mann’s close-ups to speculation on the almost-projects of great directors, but Wright (a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa) perhaps shines brightest when discussing his dissertation topic: sound in modern movies. His essays delve into the ways in which technology and industrial economics shape our experience of the oft-ignored aural aspects of the films we see (and hear), always taking care to initiate sonic laypeople with generous explanations of technical terms. It may sound a little (gasp!) academic, but Wright’s thoughtful enthusiasm guides you gracefully through the intricacies of, say, the narrative functions of Jerry Goldsmith’s scores or inside-baseball debates on 5.1 versus 10.2 surround sound systems. Wright has recently been considering the implications of 3-D, particularly with regard to how it might alter the soundscape of feature films. The intelligence and equanimity with which Wright treats this much-discussed topic alone makes Wright on Film a valuable resource. Best of luck with the dissertation, Benjamin, but make sure to keep the posts coming!—Matthew Connolly

Moving Image Source
Under the stewardship of editor-in-chief Dennis Lim, Moving Image Source has quickly become one of the most consistently engaging critical voices on the Web, offering a versatile platform for its home institution (Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image) to explore classic and contemporary cinema in all its international variety. Bridging the gap between serious criticism and scholarship, the journal is noteworthy not only for its consistently insightful prose and wide-ranging subjects—often pegged to important film exhibitions—but for its regular inclusion of video essays, an exciting emergent format that has been pioneered by frequent contributors Kevin B. Lee and Matt Zoller Seitz. In its two years online, the publication has thrived on a cinephilic passion open to many different tastes and approaches, with subjects ranging from the art of cinematography to the aesthetics of early video games, from established filmmakers like Wes Anderson to more obscure figures such as Yasmin Ahmad. In addition to top-notch criticism, the sleekly designed website features an exhaustive but easily navigable list of online resources for cinema-related research, a calendar highlighting the most significant film events around the world, and an audio treasure trove of MOMI’s Pinewood Dialogues with film and TV luminaries.—Andrew Chan

Artforum.com 
Continuing Artforum’s tradition of film writing begun in the late Sixties by such luminaries as Annette Michelson and Manny Farber, the film blog at Artforum.com also gives space to a wider range of subjects than the print publication and more reflections from a welcome roster of critical voices including James Quandt, Amy Taubin, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Ed Halter, Nicolas Rapold, Melissa Anderson, Andrew Hultkrans, Michael Joshua Rowin, and more. Artforum’s pristinely designed outpost places the cinema beat alongside a news digest and links to both its “critics’ picks” section and the Scene & Herd diary, which offers a plethora of photos from exhibition openings and parties. New York remains a persistent locus of attention, but current online editor David Velasco says he aims to keep “multiple venues and topics in the mix.” Recent reports have been filed on screenings of Pancho Villa-centered documentaries by Gregorio Rocha and Félix and Edmundo Padilla at L.A.’s REDCAT experimental film theater, and an exhibition of works by Ryan Trecartin, Peter Campus, Sharon Lockhart, and Joachim Koester at The Power Plant contemporary art gallery in Toronto. At its best, Artforum.com reports and reflects the ways in which the world of cinema and the contemporary art scene increasingly commingle and cross-fertilize.—Paul Fileri

Film-Philosophy
In the world of online film publications, Film-Philosophy qualifies as a firmly entrenched fixture. Begun as an e-mail list in 1996, this first-generation, U.K.-based enterprise has cultivated a small but focused international readership, helping to renew interest in thinkers who yoke together philosophy and film, from Gilles Deleuze and Stanley Cavell to Henri Bergson and Hugo Münsterberg. Founder and academic Daniel Frampton has since collected his long-gestating reflections in an ambitious 2006 book Filmosophy (a work whose cumbersome title has perhaps unsurprisingly failed to catch on), turning over stewardship of the site to current managing editor David Sorfa. “We have special issues coming up on disgust and on animation,” Sorfa said [in the fall of 2009]. “One theme that runs through many of the recently published articles is the question of what it might mean for films to ‘do’ philosophy themselves (rather than merely act as examples of prior philosophical theses).” That’s a major challenge, and it’s been most recently met by an issue devoted to Claire Denis and her sometime collaborator Jean-Luc Nancy; articles on the Dardenne Brothers’ cinema in relation to thinker Emmanuel Levinas; and a compelling reconsideration by Gal Kirn of the collectively made 1932 German film Kuhle Wampe.—Paul Fileri

Film Journey
Film Journey’s extemporized thoughts on long-percolating interests read like the best conversations you ever overheard at the cinematheque. Edited and written (with semi-regular guest contributors) by Doug Cummings, the Los Angeles-based co-founder of Masters of Cinema (see separate entry), Film Journey is less a modest triumph than a triumph of modesty: unaffectedly functional in style, wonkish but never willfully obscure, updated on a schedule that’s leisurely but sustained (Journey has averaged a handful of entries per month for over six years now). Though Cummings’s prosaic, analytical voice has little in common with the freewheeling wordsmithery and bumper-car collisions of ideas that were the signature of his critical idol Manny Farber, it shares with the latter an ability to burrow deep into fine-grained detail and a restless dissatisfaction with intellectual shorthand and orthodox wisdom. Whether re-evaluating old masters like Ozu and Bresson, championing contemporary favorites like Andrew Bujalski and the Dardenne Brothers, highlighting under-praised work in niche periodicals, or getting into the weeds of film festival politics, Cummings continually breaks new ground. That he once had the uncanny experience of discovering his own writing repurposed (without citation) in a sheet of UCLA screening notes is not that surprising—next to his small-scale but refreshingly original insights, the majority of film criticism looks like a rhetorically polished thesaurus-job.—Paul Brunick

The Front Row 
Hark the overdue emergence of New Yorker film editor Richard Brody, previously only available in capsule-sized bites; his physical-emotional breakdowns of American auteurists’ neglected works and sophisticated, subversive celebrations of Norbit and Jared Hess certainly stood out from the “Goings On About Town” fray. Brody published his landmark opus on Jean-Luc Godard (Everything Is Cinema) in the summer of 2008 and his investment in the Nouvelle Vague legacy peppers his daily blog. This bilingual Francophilia is to everyone’s benefit: translations of news items and interviews otherwise unavailable in English and illuminating comparisons of European and American responses appear regularly. The most engaging and sincere species of highbrow intellectual, Brody makes thoughtful, mainstream applications of his interests in cinema symbology and poetics. He offers his readers a philosophical, macrocosmic grasp of film today: its marketers, its creators, and its audiences—including his two teenaged daughters and their responses to films both contemporary and classic. Championship of indie underdogs, weekly video essays on DVD releases, and notifications of must-see TCM broadcasts keep readers abreast of what’s worth seeing now, as filtered through the perspective of a modernist with an infectiously ecstatic faith in the potential of the medium. And for those still worshipping at the altar of Woody Allen, Brody’s got your back.—Brynn White

indieWIRE
Flaunting the “independent” banner with business-minded acumen, indieWIRE stands as a prime example of the ways in which commercial online outposts serve up news, information and interactive commentary. The site, which began in 1996 as an e-newsletter co-founded by current editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez, has grown exponentially. Back in January of 2009, it launched a “re-imagining” of its website to coincide with the Sundance Film Festival’s kickoff, and announced its increasing integration with its new owner, SnagFilms, an online documentary-focused video distribution platform. Now arrayed with the characteristic accoutrements of fashionable journalistic ventures—feeds for news and blog links, rankings of articles, prominent advertising—indieWIRE has further consolidated its status as an alternative to the industry trade paper Variety. In its current incarnation, the site draws together industry players in their own niches, dispersed and networked throughout North America—largely beyond the purview of Hollywood, although Anne Thompson’s blog hardly ventures outside that frame—and also, more centrally, a whole audience that tracks the marketing and commerce of indie cinema. Though Variety no longer reigns supreme as the inside players’ bible of Hollywood dealing, the trade-magazine ethos thrives in more corners than ever, for readerships more general than a studio town ever defined.—Paul Fileri

Video Watchblog
Self-proclaimed “Perfectionist of Fantastic Video” Tim Lucas is the creator of Video Watchblog, an outgrowth of his cult magazine Video Watchdog (1990-present; 157 issues to date), which itself originated in a series of columns Lucas published across multiple magazines throughout the Eighties. Recognizing that home media would be the dominant mode of movie-viewing in the future, Lucas’s quietly revolutionary writing is in part responsible for setting the high standards home media must meet today, as well as the emergence of boutique labels, whether they aim to release the definitive edition of a world-cinema classic or reintroduce the public to a forgotten cult gem. Lucas’s approach exhibits an archival commitment to preservation before evaluation: no matter how far outside the canon a title may reside, it first and foremost deserves the highest-possible handling to replicate the director’s original theatrical intentions… then criticism can follow. To these ends, Lucas trained an entire generation of film readers and video renters to manually measure aspect ratios onscreen, hunt down multiple and multi-region releases of the same title, compare alternate run-times and conflicting versions of the same film, and in the process, appreciate the ever-blurring line between exploitation and art house.—Ben Simington

Girish Shambu 
A professor of management at Buffalo’s Canisius College who had originally trained as an engineer, Shambu is an unlikely candidate for Best Online Critic—but he’s certainly in the running. Shambu’s blog is less a formal collection of essays than a locus of fresh and energetic debate about seriously cinephilic matters. He posts recent observations, thoughts, or concerns, and then prompts his commenters to respond with a related query. The results are some of the most enlightening discussions on film style, theory, and history this side of davekehr.com (Shambu counts among his frequent contributors such heavy-hitters as Adrian Martin and Jonathan Rosenbaum). After all, isn’t the pinnacle of intellectual exchange a fluid, continuous opening-up of ideas rather than a rigid, parochial closing-down?—Evan Davis

CineMetrics 
Film academics too rarely get involved in the online game (with the obvious exception of David Bordwell) but University of Chicago professor Yuri Tsivian has entered the Internet exchange with a wonderfully unique contribution. CineMetrics is a database that allows everyone from scholars to Joe Cinephiles to generate empirical data about shot lengths and scales in films using user-friendly (and free!) downloadable software. The well-known metric ASL (Average Shot Length) was popularized thanks to Tsivian’s efforts, who built upon Barry Salt and Bordwell’s pioneering work to generate historical and aesthetic conclusions about film style based on hard numerical data. If you ever wanted to let people know how many medium close-ups were used in Patton, or what Anchorman’s median shot length is, now’s your chance to scratch the statistical itch that’s been driving you crazy!—Evan Davis

Paul Schrader
Paul Schrader, well appointed in tailored vest, glares at you through round wire frames on the home page of his new website. With a no-nonsense formality, the visitor is offered three resources: his films, his writings, and his photos. While the filmography and collection of images are predictable fare, the real action goes down in the archives containing his film criticism. Here you’ll find the whole gamut of his hard-to-find film writing, including his recent contributions to Film Comment. By his own account, he owes everything to Pauline Kael, whom he met in New York while taking summer courses at Columbia. He sent her his college-paper movie reviews (written 1965-67 and also included on the site), and she helped him get a gig with the Los Angeles Free Press. During his time there, he wrote such notable reviews as a two-part exploration of Pickpocket, a favorable take on De Palma’s Greetings, a marvelous pan of Easy Rider, and an ode to Boudu Saved from Drowning. Later, for the short-lived Cinema Magazine, he wrote at length about Boetticher and Rossellini, two filmmakers who almost made the grade (alongside the holy trinity of Ozu, Bresson, and Dreyer) in Schrader’s 1972 book Transcendental Style in Film.—Paul Fileri

Observations on Film Art
Film scholar David Bordwell is a one-man institution—not only a font of productivity (staple volumes Film Art and Film History, co-written with wife Kristin Thompson, are now in their ninth and third editions, respectively) but a kind of eager, plainspoken ambassador for the field. Moreover, this pillar of the establishment has a blog. And since its launch in September 2006, “Observations on Film Art” certainly stands as the most robust and active online home of any film-studies academic. Posting individual entries in roughly equal measure, Bordwell and Thompson have taken to the online world’s characteristically more relaxed and informal mode of address. What makes their site an essential stop is that both are fine aesthetic observers as well as scholars, and they write the equivalent of full-fledged publishable essays, usually with plentiful and carefully placed frame enlargements. And the writing is anything but ephemeral: Bordwell’s post on “new media and old storytelling’’ was selected for the paperback edition of the Library of America’s American Movie Critics, edited by Phillip Lopate. More recent highlights include a thoughtful appreciation of critic Gilbert Seldes and an analysis of the forgotten possibilities of “the cross” in film blocking.—Paul Fileri

Unexplained Cinema 
If the blogosphere is a realm that’s predisposed to linguistic profusion, Unexplained Cinema stands out for its beguiling reticence. A companion to his more text-centric Cinema Styles, Greg Ferrara’s blog consists entirely of film stills: moments snatched from their 24 frames-per-second rush and held up to the digital light for closer inspection. Sometimes the images impressionistically sketch out a scene’s mini-arc in a series of telling shots, an act enhanced by the blog’s vertical placement of frames within two centered black lines, transforming your screen into a makeshift strip of celluloid and your scroll bar an impromptu projector. Elsewhere, he’ll trace the emotional trajectory of a performance, with particularly loving attention bestowed upon dignified British actresses in silent turmoil, from Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter to Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. And Ferrara has a real eye for juxtaposition. A post noting the death of actress Carol Marsh features an image of a pigtailed, bedridden Carol calmly gazing off-screen left, followed by a wild-haired, quite vampiric Carol perched in a tree and leering off-screen right; as a micro-meditation on the dualities of a screen persona, it’s genuinely haunting. As for what it all means, Ferrara enigmatically cedes the floor to his readers/viewers.—Matthew Connolly

Masters of Cinema
The passion of the collector knows no bounds. So it’s no surprise to find that websites catering to avid DVD collectors constitute some of the most spirited precincts of online film culture. Launched in 2001, Masters of Cinema is run by an eclectic group hailing from the U.S., Canada, and England: Jan Bielawski, Doug Cummings, R. Dixon Smith, Trond S. Trondsen, and Nick Wrigley. So which masters tie this collective together? Many celebrated auteurs, but from the beginning it seems there was one sanctified quartet: Ozu, Bresson, Tarkovsky, and Dreyer. Check out the eminently useful worldwide DVD release calendar posted on the sharply designed home page and explore five years’ worth of DVD of the Year readers’ polls. Since 2004, the site’s team has collaborated with the British DVD company Eureka to produce a Masters of Cinema curated collection, notable for the sterling care taken with each disc and the inclusion of top-notch book-length liner notes. Communities of dedicated amateurs link and sustain Masters of Cinema as a valuable resource for anyone with access to a multi-region DVD player. It’s an increasingly familiar figure who enters these virtual gathering places: the domestic cinephile, constantly struggling with the ever-present pitfalls and temptations of technophilia, consumer fetishism, and the withdrawal from public space.—Paul Fileri

Dave Kehr
The best blogs thrive as online meeting places for discerning enthusiasts—a modest-sounding accomplishment that actually means a great deal. Launched in 2005, Dave Kehr’s website is a sideline to his gig reviewing DVDs at The New York Times. Yet as its tagline, “Reports from the Lost Continent of Cinephilia,” suggests, it also serves as a venue for Kehr to bring his critical intelligence and knowledge to bear far beyond the home-video landscape. The blog’s backbone is formed by entries linking to his weekly column, but the real action occurs in the comments section, where discussions are sparked by Kehr’s remarks on everything from the state of film criticism to the careers of Nagisa Oshima and Sydney Pollack. His reflections on the site tend to circle back to the changing experience of filmgoing today. Kehr observes that the culture of cinephilia “used to be about, for instance, hanging out in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art and starting a discussion or argument.” But now, he adds, these encounters largely take place “home alone”—usually spurred by a DVD, TCM, or something online. This site, which began as a lark, has become a prime Web destination.—Paul Fileri

Thanks for the Use of the Hall 
Thanks for the Use of the Hall is the personal blog of Dan Sallitt, a critic and filmmaker whose work includes the independent features Honeymoon (98) and All the Ships at Sea (04). Sallitt has written for print publications across the country (from the L.A. Reader to the Chicago Reader), contributed pieces to Senses of Cinema, and provided several essays for the British DVD imprint “Masters of Cinema”—but his blog doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to its geographic specificity. TFUH proudly offers “a general discussion . . . and specific recommendations of films playing in the New York City area.” Since its inauguration in May 2007, Sallitt has maintained a slow-but-steady posting schedule. Some months there may be as few as two or three entries, but the thoroughness of Sallitt’s historically informed criticism gives his blog a distinctive lasting value. More importantly, Sallitt provides a personal record of the diverse movies (from repertory screenings to new releases) and venues (from prominent venues like BAMcinématek and the Walter Reade to relative newbies like Maysles Cinema and assorted mini-festivals) that collectively constitute NYC’s film scene.—Cullen Gallagher

Jonathan Rosenbaum
In the late Nineties and early Aughts, the Chicago Reader film section was a major hub of cinephilia’s online landscape. Not only did the archive include all of the sharp, highly opinionated capsule reviews that Jonathan Rosenbaum and Dave Kehr had written for the alternative weekly, but it also provided access to one of the most vital bodies of work in film criticism: Rosenbaum’s brilliantly sustained run of essays on contemporary cinema. Now that the long-form pieces have been removed from the site and Rosenbaum has retired from regular reviewing, it is a huge relief to find his writings republished on his personal website. For the most part, JonathanRosenbaum.com showcases the most productive period of his career—his two decades at the Reader—as each month J.R. dredges up a piece from the vaults and generously pads it with a selection of stills. Sifting through the several thousand articles on the site, a reader can’t help but feel nostalgic for the days when Rosenbaum was producing his lucid, erudite prose on a regular basis. But the Internet can be credited with extending his name’s reach among a wider movie-loving readership, and this exhaustive online anthology ensures that we can all continue to learn from his work.—Andrew Chan

Rouge
After wandering through the new-media forest of so many hyperactive, cluttered web pages, the spare layout of the Australia-based online film journal Rouge feels like a clearing in a forest—a clean, well-lighted place for an ardently cinephilic readership interested in some of today’s finest long-form critical writing. Since its birth in late 2003, co-editors Helen Bandis, Adrian Martin, and Grant McDonald, along with webmaster Bill Mousoulis, have guided this labor of love (enigmatically named after a 1968 Gérard Fromanger flag painting and Godard collaboration) through 13 issues so far. Free of commercial and institutional strictures, Rouge boasts an enviable international stable of contributors—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Nicole Brenez, Shigehiko Hasumi, Thomas Elsaesser, and William D. Routt, to name a few—and a remarkable commitment to the eclectic and intellectual at its most lively, relevant, and generative. This means publishing the words of filmmakers (Mark Rappaport, Victor Erice, Pedro Costa), lengthy translations (of Raymond Bellour and Serge Daney), and terrific image-by-image analyses of film sequences. In an information environment more and more beholden to the speed of the daily news cycle, there’s something to be said for the value of long-range insight that a little magazine such as Rouge brings to film culture.—Paul Fileri

Supposed Aura 
Mubarak Ali’s Supposed Aura is screen-grab epistemology, a philosophically inflected attempt to get to the bottom of images, their internal logic and their ability to instruct us about the external world. Tracing subterranean trajectories between non-mainstream narrative and documentary filmmakers (e.g. Hartmut Bitomsky, Marcel Hanoun, Jean-Claude Rousseau), Ali recuperates films that make politics and pedagogy integral to their aesthetics. In montages of textual quotations and screen grabs, Supposed Aura excavates moments in film that reach for truth, exploring the image in its capacity to reveal. A chronicle of lost true things resurrected through poetry and image, Ali helms a project of Dorskian devotion (as in Nathaniel Dorsky, filmmaker and author of Devotional Cinema). A recent post quoted Jean-Claude Rousseau’s “La beauté n’est jamais fictive”: perhaps the beauty of cinema is in its truth, and vice versa. In its acts of resurrection and commitment, Mubarak Ali’s blog embeds itself in the truths and beauties of the cinema it chronicles. The history of movies is also a movie; Supposed Aura is not just of the cinema but is cinema.—Dave McDougall

World Picture
Aimed at the happy few and imbued with sensibilities neither wholly amateur nor professional, World Picture was launched in 2008 by Brian Price, John David Rhodes, and Meghan Sutherland, media scholars and longtime friends split between university towns in Oklahoma and East Sussex, England. Sutherland says that she and her fellow editors began the journal in response to a frustration with the “technological specialization of film and television studies scholarship and with the professionalized styles of writing . . . it tended to produce.” They hope to “cultivate a space [for] more speculative and porous ways of thinking that can cut across the typical genres, styles, and media of thought.” The first issue was entitled “Jargon” and approached, in a manner both critically acute and slyly ruminative, the ways that epithet gets bandied about. Issue two broached the hardly obvious theme of the “Obvious,” while the third considered the slippery issue of “Happiness.” Between the three, you’ll find long interviews with Olivier Assayas and Emmanuel Bourdieu, trenchant essays on Bamakoand Adorno, and a charming piece of fiction by Sam Lipsyte called “A Pimple on the Ass of Drew Barrymore Speaks.” Their current issue boasts a bevy of interesting articles wrapped in yet another intriguing title: “Arousal.”—Paul Fileri

Ain’t It Cool News 
The rise of Harry Knowles’s Ain’t It Cool News parallels the film industry’s increased involvement with San Diego Comic-Con and the rise of Austin’s film scene, from its alternative exhibition circuit (highlighted by SXSW and Knowles’s own Fantastic Fest) to its thriving independent productions. While the former provides Hollywood with focus-group insights into the valuable fanboy demographic and the latter fresh discoveries of up and coming (and thus inexpensive) creative talent, it’s eerie to think that awareness of Knowles alerted Hollywood to the existence of both youthful markets. AICN’s “agents” track down pre-production gossip, aggressively solicit first-look access to promotional materials, sneak in (though by now they’re usually invited) to test screenings—all the while engaging in feverish “What-if…?” speculations. Though the completed movies rarely live up to the pre-release buzz, cinephilia often indulges such pie-in-the-sky speculation. (What if Orson Welles’s later projects had proper backing? etc.) Since AICN operates on the principle that creators of cultural products are beholden on principle to their most rabid fans, it’s unclear how many of the site’s 300,000-plus monthly audience is there for the coverage and reviews themselves and how many are merely gawking at the reader-forums sideshow.—Violet Lucca

The Man Who Viewed Too Much
Those bemoaning the death of print criticism might just have Mike D’Angelo to blame. Before all the think pieces and panel discussions—before Web-based criticism was even a thing, really—there was D’Angelo, who, while writing capsules for Entertainment Weekly, was also running a film-nerd discussion group and maintaining his own personal website, The Man Who Viewed Too Much. D’Angelo was one of the first critics to make his name almost exclusively through the Internet, and though many since have traveled down this new-media path, few have come quite so far. For connoisseurs of criticism, D’Angelo’s voice is immediately recognizable for its unique cadence: a blistering mix of erudition and wit that’s at once stimulating and pleasurable, thorny and inviting. As a writer D’Angelo is a true debate-team champion, fiercely intelligent and argumentative, and he’s never less than a blast to read—even (or especially, perhaps) when you disagree with him. D’Angelo went on from Entertainment Weekly to write for Time Out New York and Esquire, and though the economy would eventually deprive him of those gigs, The Man Who Viewed Too Much is still around and he continues to write for print venues—the Las Vegas WeeklyNashville Scene, and The Onion’s A.V. Club are all the better for it.—Matt Noller

Mubi (the website formerly known as The Auteurs) 
The driving force behind The Criterion Collection’s November 2008 website overhaul, The Auteurs combines a film library with a social networking platform and an online journal called The Notebook. The company is the brainchild of founder and CEO Efe Cakarel, a Turkish-born entrepreneur who drew on his experience in business and technology to launch The Auteurs, despite no previous film track record or industry connections. For Cakarel, the value of their growing online catalogue (roughly 1,000 on offer globally) rests on the diversity and quality of its holdings and the thoughtfulness of the programming. The Notebook, meanwhile, provides a top-notch example of the indispensable work that a dedicated news-aggregator can perform in the age of the RSS feed. Run by former GreenCine Daily guru David Hudson (who also blogged briefly for IFC.com), it offers an extensive daily clearing-house of film-related news, criticism, and commentary generated from online and print publications, as well as from personal blogs and lively interactive amateur enclaves on the Web. As a whole, The Auteurs proves a worthy reminder that commerce and culture can be deeply intertwined when film devotees try to figure out how to get their hands on the movies they love.—Paul Fileri

Order of the Exile
Jacques Rivette’s cinema has never been easy to track down. Access to his interviews, and the many extraordinary polemics he penned for Cahiers du cinéma in the Fifties and Sixties, has also been limited. Order of the Exile, a website named after a line from Rivette’s 1961 film Paris Belongs to Us, has been trying to rectify this matter. Its intrepid founders, Daniel Stuyck and Ross Wilbanks, say they’ve designed the outpost, hosted by DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze, with the aim of making more Rivette available in English than ever before. Readers have become contributors, happily driven to transcribe, compile, or translate material, thereby adding to the site’s stripped-down yet well-organized database. Stuyck, meanwhile, takes the time to handle any rights issues that may arise in reprinting previously published material. The holdings of this online collection cut a wide swath, including what is apparently still the only published English translation of Rivette’s key 1961 essay “On Abjection,” concerning the morality of film style; two essential extended interviews with Rivette from 1963 and 1981 (the latter previously untranslated); and even a listing (compiled by a dogged Joseph Coppola) of all of Rivette’s star ratings given to films in Cahiers du cinéma from 1955 to 1966.—Paul Fileri

Cinebeats
Cinebeats chronicles “one woman’s love affair with ’60s and ’70s-era cinema.” As this informal mission statement suggests, those looking for hard historical data or deep academic readings should keep moving. Photographer and designer Kimberly Lindbergs’s blog is a charming little fan site that reflects the ethos of the small ’zines where she began her career. That’s not to imply that her project is a slapdash affair; as of March 2010, her sharp postings will be included in Turner Classic Movies’ official blog, Movie Morlocks. Cinebeats, however, is best utilized for its fascinating photographs of Hollywood royalty. Lindbergs has a terrific eye for both composition and charisma, and she’ll snatch up any topical hook to assemble impressive mini-galleries of beloved stars and directors memorialized in press photos and candids. The fawning may wear thin for readers who feel that one can extol the physical virtues of Steve McQueen or Michael Fassbender too much, but it’s through the sheer exuberance of her personality that the site achieves its success. It’s rare to find such unaffected delight and genuine passion laid as bare as they are on Lindbergs’s blog, an enthusiasm made all the more digestible through her straightforwardly elegant Web design.—Benjamin Shapiro

The Seventh Art 
Print publications these days can barely muster a capsule review for most non-Western films released in the States, and that’s on a good week. Over at The Seventh Art, however, movies elsewhere given the 150-word write-off become the subject of lengthy reflection—the kind that newspapers normally reserve for important stuff like Sex and the City 2. Even better, the impressively prolific Srikanth Srinivasan matches quantity with quality. Alternating between directorial profiles, reviews of new releases, and reconsiderations of older works, Srinivasan’s posts are erudite yet accessible, displaying astute formal analysis and a deep knowledge of film history (a recent post on Lisandro Alonso persuasively connected his oeuvre to those of Tsai Ming-Liang, Robert Bresson, and the Italian Neorealists). Srinivasan’s expansive view doesn’t ignore U.S. cinema; the blog’s coverage of Inglourious Basterds remains among the most densely packed and satisfying on the Web. But this is a place where “American movies” tend to mean Bush Mama and Los Angeles Plays Itself rather than Avatar and its ilk. That a stinging pan of Cameron’s blockbuster gets roughly half the space of an appreciative look back at Lav Diaz’s filmography is enough to give the most despairing cinephile reason to hope.—Matthew Connolly

The House Next Door
Salon writer Matt Zoller Seitz has been in the game a long time. A journalist in Dallas before emigrating to New York, he wrote for the New York Press for a number of years and has made both narrative features and a batch of incisive, illuminating video essays. In 2006, he embarked on a project to exalt what he thought was a misunderstood and unappreciated film, Terrence Malick’s The New World. That project became The House Next Door. Its first entries were extended exegeses and analyses of The New World’s formal, narrative, and thematic qualities. The website quickly expanded into much more. Now under the stewardship of Time Out New York critic Keith Uhlich (and housed as the official blog of the outstanding online arts mag Slant), THND publishes articles on art cinema, Hollywood blockbusters, television shows, critical dialogues about bona fide classics, in-depth festival coverage, and just about anything else that interests the always perspicacious, ever evolving writing staff of Seitz and Uhlich’s venture. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find an online film magazine as inclusive or expansive as this one. Seitz may have started small, but like the film he championed back then, his opus could not be contained.—Evan Davis

Reverse Shot 
Despite being based on an open-source content management system instead of smudgy newsprint, the audacity of Reverse Shot lies in its “spirit of ’68” adherence to principles of print journalism. Inheriting a semi-academic critical approach, each quarterly edition has championed a single director or explored an aspect of filmmaking (a single shot, sound, etc.). The retro lack of a comments field (except for on the blog) allows the opinions expressed to endure with authority. But a tone of reasoned partisanship prevails, even if the site’s “Shot/Reverse Shot” dueling reviews have faded away. A “Talkies” series of video interviews with filmmakers continues a string of ambitious digital and real-world experiments: a stint providing indieWIRE with reviews, guest-programming movie series, and even arranging for distribution of the documentary A Lion in the House in 10 cities in 2006.—Violet Lucca

Senses of Cinema 
A veritable institution in the world of online film journals, the 10-and-a-half-year-old Senses of Cinema continues to be one of the most vigorously diverse sources of scholarly research and commentary on the Web. Just a gander at their latest issue (their 55th!) speaks to the breadth of topics and range of methodologies at work: the complex construction of Louise Brooks’s on and off-screen personae; notions of sexuality and homeland in Michael Lucas’s Middle Eastern porno Men of Israel; the intersections of cinema and cartography as expressed in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (the Melbourne-based journal has always been a particularly valuable source for writing on Aussie cinema). Factor in their invaluable “Great Directors” series—over 200 lengthy entries currently available, and more to come—and Senses of Cinema deservedly earns its reputation as a mainstay of the digital film-criticism universe.—Matthew Connolly

Scanners
In the realm of Internet criticism, there’s been a lot of commentary on the gulf dividing fanboys and academics, but when it comes to unfortunately polarizing tendencies, there’s still another Great Schism: the altar boys and the assholes: humorlessly earnest, mind-numbingly reverent hagiographers and caustically negative, bitchy would-be satirists. Jim Emerson is here to show us a better way. The founding editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com maintains an addictively enjoyable side project in Scanners, a blog that should appeal to all four of the above demographics and everyone in between. Weighing in on topical debates—from 3-D and hyper-fast editing to the culture of the Academy Awards and (yes) the future of film criticism—Emerson isn’t afraid to call bullshit when he sees it, but he reliably turns every takedown into a constructive “learning moment.” A proud member of Colbert Nation, Emerson’s incisive responses to legacy-media “trend pieces” are an almost weekly reminder that the MSM is not as meaningfully quality-controlled as they pretend. (Jim’s response to Ramin Setoodeh’s infamous can-gay-actors-play-straight? Newsweek essay was the wittiest media critique I’ve read all year.) A formalist at heart, Emerson will spend weeks at a time analyzing isolated aspects of cinematic style: opening shots, close-ups, long-take staging. And he isn’t afraid to revisit his past favorites again and again, obsessively attempting to pin down what it is about certain films (ChinatownFight ClubNo Country for Old Men) that he finds so compulsively watchable. Smart but accessible, cutting but never cruel, and a true believer in critical debate (“I want to try as hard as I can to understand and be understood”), Emerson makes most critics look like self-involved narcissists impotently talking past one another.—Paul Brunick

THE CAPTOR | REVIEW

In spite of its tag, The Captor – known elsewhere as Stockholm – is neither particularly absurd nor notably true. A seventies period piece from Born to be Blue director Robert Budreau, the film explores the origins of Stockholm syndrome with all the psychological depth of a Liam Neeson B-movie. Whilst a failure to commit to either comic bravura or gruelling tension proves to be Budreau’s fundamental flaw, his casting of Ethan Hawke front and centre saves the film from irredeemable middle of the road ineffectuality. 
Hawke stars here as hapless parole convict Jan-Erik Olsson, the main culprit of the August 1973 Normalmstory robbery, whose queer capacity to entrance hostages saw all four latterly refuse to testify against him. Budreau’s film goes further still – naturally – with the addition of a romantic liaison between Olsson and bank clerk turned victim Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace), a married mother of two. Given that we’re never entirely clear what it is that attracts Lind to Olsson – the wig? the Yosemite Sam moustache? the gun in her face? – it’s hard not to feel that Budreau himself can’t quite pin down the syndrome. This is problematic only if one were hoping for a film boasting more critical engagement with the subject and less baseline fun. Which is essentially the long and short of this one. Rapace, so strong in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, does well to convey some semblance of progression for the character but it’s not really there.
What’s lacking here is a sense the tension that the average hostage feature yarns for tension. Instead, The Captor frequently plays more in the realm of comedy than thriller. Unhinged and freewheeling, Hawke revels in the lunacy of his character – ‘You can call me the outlaw’ – throwing himself into the fancy dress box that here comprises period detail. Budreau too feels more confident in his film’s comic brushstrokes; territory in which he has permission to paint broadly and almost excuse flailing attempts to capture Olsson’s violence. And yet, The Captor clings still to the notion that it is not an outright comedy and so never wholly commits to relinquishing shots at bleak straits. Muddying waters thematically is suggestion that ‘nobody’s all bad’ and exploration of Olsson as more naive antihero than villain: ‘I thought they’d cooperate’. Rather than robbing the Kreditbanken, Olsson sought only to secure the release of his criminal idol Gunnar Sorensson (Mark Strong). Another personal misstep.
There are hints here on a film that perhaps had more to say but these only do to frustrate as evidence that The Captor could have been so much more. There’s the role of masculinity in Bianca’s immediate surroundings for one – her husband Christopher (Thorbjørn Harr) is an inadequate numpty, while her local police chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) quickly switches interest protecting the hostages for simply winning his cat and mouse squabble with Olsson – but also the concern of a police force less honest than the criminals they tackle. The Captor never quite grasps such themes and certainly misses nuance in its exploration of the story. This is, after all, the era of Nixon.
Hawke is, at least, worth the ride. His is an all-in performance, fully committed, and all the better for it. Despite the daft get up and occasionally corny dialogue, Hawke brings an electric quality to the film; initially bumptious, increasingly fraught. There’s panic in those eyes of his but frequent flashes of total, unjustified, self-confidence. Against all odds, Hawke demands engagement. Even he can’t sell the dramatic intensity of The Captor’s intent but there’s emotional integrity in his work, which is genuinely impressive.

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