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Monster In A Box: What ‘Wonder Boys’ Says About The Writing Process

By Yasmina Tawil

By Daniel Carlson
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“A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is a sum of destructions. I do a picture—then I destroy it. In the end though, nothing is lost: the red I took away from one place turns up somewhere else.” — Pablo Picasso

Writing is boring. Not the act itself—actually doing it can be exhilarating, your head “vibrant with the static of unelaborated thought,” as Philip Roth once described the onset of the creative process. No, it’s watching someone write that’s boring. Next time you see someone in your office crafting an email, look at the way they just kind of stare at nothing for a while, then peck at keys, then shrug and repeat the whole thing before hitting Send and going to the bathroom. It’s always like that. Half of writing is just looking off into space, trying to get ideas to come to you, which is pretty challenging to dramatize on screen. You’re watching someone think, which means you’re trying to watch something invisible.

 

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Jonathan Demme’s ‘A Master Builder’ and the Elusive Magic of Bringing Stage to Screen

By Yasmina Tawil

By Tina Hassannia

Criterion’s three-film box-set of the works of Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory—My Dinner With Andre, Uncle Vanya, and A Master Builder—features several supplements, including an interview between the theater artists and writer Fran Lebowitz. She makes a frank confession: “I don’t like watching theater.” Gregory, a man who’s spent his entire life in the theater, says he feels the same way.

Lebowitz explains that she loves to be drawn into a good film or novel, but, with the exception of Shawn’s work, she’s never experienced the same with theater. She’s not alone. While theater may not exactly be a dying art form, it was long ago upstaged by cinema and television as our de-facto entertainment, and our appreciation for it has dwindled in kind.

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Mirror, Mirror: When Movie Characters Look Back at Themselves

By Yasmina Tawil

By Sheila O’Malley

“I always feel it behind me. It’s myself. And I follow me. In silence. But I can hear it. Yes, sometimes it’s like I’m chasing myself. I want to escape from myself. But I can’t!” —Peter Lorre as child-murderer, M (1931)

There was a period in the ‘60s and ‘70s when you could barely call yourself a male movie star if you didn’t do a scene where you stared at yourself in the mirror, doing various “private” things. The device shows up before then, too, but the floodgates opened in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Meryl Streep has observed, “Often the scenes that are the most exciting, and most illuminating in film, are the ones with no dialogue…where a character is doing something alone, where the deepest most private self is revealed or explored. Exposed.”

 

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Paris sans Agnès

By Yasmina Tawil

By Andrew Lapin

It was morning in Paris when news of Agnès Varda’s death reached the world. On a hunch, I left the apartment I shared with my girlfriend in the city’s 5th arrondissement and walked the 30 minutes, past the hordes of tourists cramming into the skull-stacked Paris Catacombs, to reach Rue Daguerre in the Montparnasse neighborhood, where Varda had lived since 1951.

This is where Varda and her husband, fellow French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Demy, had purchased a derelict pink storefront and turned it into the production house Tamaris Films, later renamed Ciné-Tamaris, so they could produce Varda’s first film La Pointe Courte in 1954. The pair moved into the tucked-away apartment/studio complex and quickly became fixtures of the neighborhood, spreading art, whimsy, and cats around their tiny world (although the building’s exterior remained in poor shape, with paint perpetually peeling and the roof leaking).

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When Dirty Harry Fought Pauline Kael

By Yasmina Tawil

By Keith Phipps
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“Dirty” Harry Callahan fought many bad guys across five films between the years 1971 and 1988, from a serial killer named Scorpio to violent revolutionaries to a gang of seaside rapists. But one of his most persistent foes lived off screen, which didn’t keep her from becoming a kind of obsession for the film series Harry called home. Directed by Don Siegel, Dirty Harry quickly became the subject of controversy and condemnation — as everyone making it no doubt knew it would, with its casual endorsement of police power and dismissal of accused criminals’ rights. But few were as vocal in their condemnation as Pauline Kael, who pinned on the series, and its star, an f-word both would have a hard time shaking. The “action genre has always had a fascist potential,” wrote Kael in The New Yorker, “and it has finally surfaced.” The review locked Callahan and Kael in a battle that would continue until both retired, leaving no clear winner at its end.

 

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3D, Part 2: How 3D Peaked At Its Valley

By Yasmina Tawil

By Vadim Rizov

I didn’t expect to spend Thanksgiving Weekend 2018 watching ten 3D movies: marathon viewing is not my favorite experience in general, and I haven’t spent years longing to see, say, Friday the 13th Part III, in 35mm. But a friend was visiting, from Toronto, to take advantage of this opportunity, an impressive level of dedication that seemed like something to emulate, and it’s not like I had anything better to do, so I tagged along. Said friend, Blake Williams, is an experimental filmmaker and 3D expert, a subject to which he’s devoted years of graduate research and the bulk of his movies (see Prototype if it comes to a city near you!); if I was going to choose the arbitrary age of 32 to finally take 3D seriously, I couldn’t have a better Virgil to explain what I was seeing on a technical level. My thanks to him (for getting me out there) and to the Quad Cinema for being my holiday weekend host; it was probably the best possible use of my time.

 

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3D, Part 1: James Cameron and the Broken Promise of the Third Wave

By Yasmina Tawil

By Vadim Rizov
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[Note: This essay is the first in a two-part series on 3D. Part 2, coming soon, will discuss the unexpected peak of 3D as an artistic form. —ed.]

It’s not fair to say that James Cameron ruined projection standards by pushing for a digital changeover—the industry impetus was already under way—but Avatar left less of an impression as a movie than as technological advocacy, resulting in unintended, still-lingering side effects. Cameron dreamed of 3D cinema arriving, finally, at what he viewed as its overdue narrative fruition; he couldn’t have imagined compromising projection standards or undermining film archiving in the process. This is a two-part essay: The first is a grim recap of the Third Wave of 3D, which has unfolded over the last decade. The second will advocate for a secret classic of 3D cinema at its inadvertently experimental peak.

 

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The Wondrous, Sensuous World of Astralvision by Charles Bramesco

By Yasmina Tawil

You don’t find it; it finds you, most likely in the dead of night.

You can’t sleep, you may or may not be on drugs (you don’t have to be, though it’d be a lot cooler, as they say, if you were), and you’re clicking around the weirder back channels of YouTube again. You pinball from ‘80s-era NASA test footage to “36 NEW SHOWS FROM THE HELLISH MID-SEASON TV OF 1979” to the deep catalog of VHS...

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