Coltrane, who will turn 20 in August, has spent almost all his life here in “keep it weird” Austin — mostly home-schooled except for three years of high school, followed by a GED; landscaping work for his stepfather; photography and painting in the trippy vein of Alex Grey; and the slow-burn emotional time bomb of a movie formerly known as “The 12-Year Project.” Linklater’s deep-focus, pseudo-vérité coming-of-age story was designed to capture a fictional family in messy real time — the mutable boy, Mason (Coltrane); his straight-A sister, Samantha (Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei); and their divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette). Every year before the usually four-day-long shoot, Linklater would hold a week of rehearsals, dinners, and collaborative rewrites — a process also used in Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Hawke, who was in those too, compares it to the improv-plus rewriting approach of Mike Leigh. “We all used this fictional family as a crucible,” he says, “in which to pour our collective thoughts on growing up.”

But Linklater’s film isn’t just an aesthetic gambit. It’s also a psychological experiment, absorbing the personalities and dramas of its stars and, 12 years later, showing them — and then the world — a fictional doppelgänger of their lives.  –

  • Review/overviews at the New York Times and at The Guardian.
  • Dissenting view from all the adulation here.
  • BTS is here, with interesting tech notes about how to maintain a consistent look over 12 years of filming.
  • I’ve always wondered how/when they did the ADR/looping since the kids’ voices were certainly changing. Different versions of how they handled that are here and here and here.




Roger Ebert – “[Fargo] rotates its story through satire, comedy, suspense and violence, until it emerges as one of the best films I’ve ever seen. To watch it is to experience steadily mounting delight, as you realize the filmmakers have taken enormous risks, gotten away with them and made a movie that is completely original, and as familiar as an old shoe – or a rubbersoled hunting boot from Land’s End, more likely.”

Film blogger Kinosaur has a nice theory on what’s up with Mike Yanagita, a seemingly out-of-the-blue character.

Blade Runner

Blade Runner

  • “What makes us human?” – Google search (432,000 hits)
    • e.g., we have a soul, we cook, we remember things, we make tools, we make plans, we feel love, we have self-aware consciousness, we are created in God’s image, we are altruistic, we bury our dead, we have really big brains, we have language, we make cultures, we use fire, we have opposable thumbs, we use symbols, etc., etc.
  • “What make us human?” – Google news search (6,580 hits for recent articles)
  • Why Blade Runner is Timeless, from The Guardian (2015)
  • There sure are a lot of versions of Blade Runner. We watched the International Cut (1982), and then the ending (and interpolated unicorn scene) from the Final Cut (2007).
  • And people really care about which version is best.

It’s 2018, a year away from Blade Runner. How close are we to building Nexus 6?

Most film noir movies don’t use the flashback/voice-over technique of storytelling, but this technique has become closely associated with film noir for two main reasons.

One is that a few of the most iconic noirs do make use of it, so people who have only seen a handful of the true classics are more likely to associate this technique with noir. The other, and I’ve never seen this commented on elsewhere, is that the use of a voice-over closely replicates the tone and feeling of the novels on which a lot of noir movies were based.

The Philip Marlowe detective novels by Raymond Chandler are all narrated in the first person by the detective himself, and his world-weary voice and cynical commentary create much of the noir mood in the books. So when a film noir uses a flashback narrated by the detective, it produces basically the same feeling. It makes the movie feel more like the book.

Another aspect is that the flashback in a film noir is usually leading up to a tragedy of some kind. It’s the story of one man’s fall from grace. So the voice-over has a built-in quality of regret and pathos, as the person speaking has already experienced the tragedy. That’s why the theatrical version of the 70s sci-fi noir classic “Blade Runner” feels even more noir than the otherwise superior director’s cut, which dispenses with the voice-over. The studio insisted on adding the voice-over to help the viewers understand a complex story, but in doing so they inadvertently tapped in to a powerful noir trope – the voice of a doomed man narrating the story of his own defeat.


From The Blade Cuts, an interview with Ridley Scott:

Scott: …did you see the version [of the script] with the unicorn?

McKenzie: No…

Scott: I think the idea of the unicorn was a terrific idea…

McKenzie: The obvious inference is that Deckard is a replicant himself.

Scott: Sure. To me it’s entirely logical, particularly when you are doing a film noir, you may as well go right through with that theme, and the central character could in fact be what he is chasing…

McKenzie: Did you actually shoot the sequence in the glade with the unicorn?

Scott: Absolutely. It was cut into the picture, and I think it worked wonderfully. Deckard was sitting, playing the piano rather badly because he was drunk, and there’s a moment where he gets absorbed and goes off a little at a tangent and we went into the shot of the unicorn plunging out of the forest. It’s not subliminal, but it’s a brief shot. Cut back to Deckard and there’s absolutely no reaction to that, and he just carries on with the scene. That’s where the whole idea of the character of Gaff with his origami figures — the chicken and the little stick-figure man, so the origami figure of the unicorn tells you that Gaff has been there. One of the layers of the film has been talking about private thoughts and memories, so how would Gaff have known that a private thought of Deckard was of a unicorn? That’s why Deckard shook his head like that [referring to Deckard nodding his head after picking up the paper unicorn].

Exposition | The Matrix

This year I’m finding the exposition in The Matrix clumsy and slow and clunky. But apparently in 2013 I didn’t think so, and I linked to an essay at AVClub about how well the Wachowskis handle exposition at the beginning of the Matrix — Morpheus explains without really explaining:

Right off the bat, this whole “nobody can be told” business. Of course they can be told. I can do it in two sentences: “Everything you think you experience, this entire world, is actually a computer program. In real life, it’s around 2199, and you’re lying in a vat with a dozen tubes sticking out of you, being used as a living battery by sentient computers, as you have been since the day you were born.” What Morpheus means is that nobody would believe it without being shown the evidence. More to the point, the Wachowskis know perfectly well that it’s much more exciting for the audience to share Neo’s intense bewilderment when he suddenly awakens inside his vat, bald and naked and with plugs sticking out of him. At the same time, though, Morpheus can’t just say, “Hey, wanna know what the Matrix is? Take this pill.” Neo might actually go for it—he seems beyond the point of no return before he even enters the room—but it’d be a damp squib from a dramatic standpoint. Hence the circuitous rigmarole, as Morpheus proceeds to describe the Matrix in detail (“when you pay your taxes”?!) without really saying anything at all.

There’s another element as well, though—one that has a significant bearing on the plot: At its heart,The Matrix is a movie about free will, which is to say, about choice. That’s best symbolized when Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the red pill and the blue pill, with red representing truth and freedom, and blue signifying illusion and denial

And for only $12.99, you can buy a paper explaining the film’s relationship to film noir:




”Memento” is like an existential crossword puzzle, or a pungent 50’s B-thriller with a script by Jorge Luis Borges. The film’s story and setting are boilerplate noir. Leonard, attired in an expensive silk suit, cruises a bleached-out Southern California landscape of anonymous motels and abandoned warehouses.

AO Scott


Major longform piece about Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Inception, Interstellar) in the New York Times:

Part of the reason his work has done so well at the box office is that his audience members — and not just his fans, but his critics — find themselves watching his movies twice, or three times, bleary-eyed and shivering in their dusky light, hallucinating wheels within wheels and stopping only to blog about the finer points. These blogs pose questions along the lines of “If the fact that the white van is in free-fall off the bridge in the first dream means that, in the second dream, there’s zero gravity in the hotel, then why is there still normal gravity in the third dream’s Alpine fortress?????

Most people, of course, don’t take their Nolaniana to such extremes. But there are enthusiasts out there who lose themselves to the limbo of Nolan’s expansive, febrile imagination. The IMDB F.A.Q. about the meaning of the end of “Inception” makes “Infinite Jest” look like a pamphlet on proper toaster installation. The Internet has become lousy with intersecting wormholes tunneled by warring pro-Nolan factions.

That his films manage to be both mainstream blockbusters and objects of such cult appeal is what makes Nolan a singular, and singularly admired, figure in Hollywood.


Article in The Atlantic on how Memento was pivotal in Nolan’s career:

After its U.S. release on March 16, 2001, it was nominated for two Oscars in the Original Screenplay and Editing categories, and although it lost both, it established Nolan as a director to watch. His next project was a remake of the Nordic crime drama Insomnia with Al Pacino and Robin Williams in 2002, before Warner Bros. tasked him with reviving the Batman franchise in 2005, betting big on the hope that an indie director could make the world’s most famous superhero cool again. Nolan succeeded, and he hasn’t looked back since, mostly making widescreen genre epics with huge budgets. Nevertheless, every movie he’s made has one thing in common with Memento: extreme attention to detail.

And for obsessives:

But I share this takeaway:

I believe the answers are all there in the film, but the terms of the storytelling deliberately prevent people from finding them. If you watch the film, and abandon your conventional desire for absolute truth – and the confirmation of absolute truth that most films provide you with – then you can find all the answers you’re looking for. As far as I’m concerned, my view is very much in the film – the answers are all there for the attentive viewer, but the terms of the storytelling prevent me from being able to give the audience absolute confirmation. And that’s the point.

– Christopher Nolan, From James Mottram’s “The Making of Memento”, 2002, Faber and Faber Limited, page 26.


Interesting point about how our image of a actor’s roles in other movies can affect our reading of a film:

The most interesting part of that for me is that audiences seem very unwilling to believe the stuff that Teddy [Pantoliano] says at the end and yet why? I think its because people have spent the entire film looking at Leonard’s photograph of Teddy, with the caption: “Don’t believe his lies.” That image really stays in people’s heads, and they still prefer to trust that image even after we make it very clear that Leonard’s visual recollection is completely questionable. It was quite surprising, and it wasn’t planned. What was always planned was that we don’t ever step completely outside Leonard’s head, and that we keep the audience in that interpretive mode of trying to analyze what they want to believe or not. For me, the crux of the movie is that the one guy who might actually be the authority on the truth of what happened is played by Joe Pantoliano … who is so untrustworthy, especially given the baggage he carries in from his other movies: he’s already seen by audiences as this character actor who’s always unreliable. I find it very frightening, really, the level of uncertainty and malevolence Joe brings to the film.

– Christopher Nolan


Note: Memento is another is another in a very long line of film and TV shows that use rape as a plot engine for a man to have agency and do heroic-seeming things. This trope is coming under increasing attack as just being lazy screenwriting.


The people interviewed for “Kedi,” Ceyda Torun’s documentary about the teeming street cat population in Istanbul, are not experts, or talking heads, or academics. They are citizens, moving through their lives, interacting with the cats in their neighborhoods, and their comments are casually contemplative, off-the-cuff and profound.   – Sheila O’Malley

Lengthy, loving closeups alternate with remarkably fluid tracking shots as Torun and Wuppermann consider the elegant poise, casual indolence, and gritty resourcefulness of cats (and their kittens) going about their everyday lives. – 


Where to stream


Billy the Kid

Backstory – in 2005,  New York talent scout Jennifer Venditti came to Maine to find extras for “Bugcrush,” a horror film to be made by Bowdoinham native/Mt. Ararat grad/fashion photographer Carter Smith (Instagram; Wikipedia). She came through the Mt. Ararat commons, found sophomore Billy Price, and cast him.

After the “Bugcrush” shooting was over, Venditti saw the possibility of making a cinéma vérité documentary just about Billy, and came back to Maine to film him for 8 days, in two separate trips. The film took the Best Documentary prize at SXSW in 2007, as well as prizes at Cinema Eye Honors, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Reviews were generally very good (85 on Rotten Tomatoes) but the film was controversial. The Times said it was a “deceptively simple portrait of a shockingly self-aware and articulate young man” that treated Billy with “genuine affection and protectiveness”; Variety, however, called it an “appallingly callous act of exploitation.”

But they go, “You have to show people respect even if they treat you like garbage.” Of course, then I’m thinking, “Then the world is a total bleak.”

Billy keeps an active presence on Facebook.


Life by Lobster

Life by Lobster cover