• A few more words about Jodie Foster
One of the bigger pieces I’ve been working on for The Dissolve is this overview of Jodie Foster’s career. (It was timed to coincide, more or less, with Elysium on the suspicion that it would a terrific movie in which she gave a first-rate performance. That didn’t quite pan out.) Working on it was an interesting experience. For one, I decided to do it without realizing just how many Foster films I hadn’t seen. So in went everything from The Hotel New Hampshire to Maverick to Nell to the queue. And since I watched roughly chronologically, it was kind of fascinating to watch her grow and age on screen. My only regret is I didn’t have time to re-watch Silence Of The Lambs, but that performance is pretty burned into my brain.
One conclusion I reference a couple of times in the piece: Foster’s seldom taken the easy route but she’s also signed on for a lot of ambitious films that don’t quite work out, from The Brave One (almost a fascinating take on the vigilante film, but then just not) to Nell (great performance, but the script around her lets her down).
By sheer coincidence, Bill Simmons and Wesley Morris discuss Foster’s career on a recent installment of Grantland’s BS Report. It’s a compelling conversation that comes to some very different conclusions than I do as Simmons tries to convince Morris that Foster is overrated. (Team Morris, incidentally, though on Simmons’ scale of wins and losses he may have a point.) I spotted a few factual errors and one whopper of a problem with Simmons’ take on Stealing Home (apart from him failing to note it is awful). Bonus points if you catch it too.

    A few more words about Jodie Foster


    One of the bigger pieces I’ve been working on for The Dissolve is this overview of Jodie Foster’s career. (It was timed to coincide, more or less, with Elysium on the suspicion that it would a terrific movie in which she gave a first-rate performance. That didn’t quite pan out.) Working on it was an interesting experience. For one, I decided to do it without realizing just how many Foster films I hadn’t seen. So in went everything from The Hotel New Hampshire to Maverick to Nell to the queue. And since I watched roughly chronologically, it was kind of fascinating to watch her grow and age on screen. My only regret is I didn’t have time to re-watch Silence Of The Lambs, but that performance is pretty burned into my brain.

    One conclusion I reference a couple of times in the piece: Foster’s seldom taken the easy route but she’s also signed on for a lot of ambitious films that don’t quite work out, from The Brave One (almost a fascinating take on the vigilante film, but then just not) to Nell (great performance, but the script around her lets her down).

    By sheer coincidence, Bill Simmons and Wesley Morris discuss Foster’s career on a recent installment of Grantland’s BS Report. It’s a compelling conversation that comes to some very different conclusions than I do as Simmons tries to convince Morris that Foster is overrated. (Team Morris, incidentally, though on Simmons’ scale of wins and losses he may have a point.) I spotted a few factual errors and one whopper of a problem with Simmons’ take on Stealing Home (apart from him failing to note it is awful). Bonus points if you catch it too.

    Aug
    15
    2013
  • Celebrities came in flocks, including actor Robert De Niro, who took special note of Bruce’s pre-encore “Are you talkin’ to me?” routine (which the actor later transmuted into a creepy highlight of his performance as a psychotic in 1976’s TAXI DRIVER), along with director Martin Scorsese, who came away eager to cast the rocker in one of his movies.

    -

    Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin, p. 199

    The mind reels.

    Aug
    11
    2013

  • Posters for  Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970)

    Jul
    31
    2013
  • THE ONION, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin: A brief, personal history

    Here’s what happened when I moved to Madison, WI in 1995: I rolled into town with most of my possessions in the trunk of a 1995 Lumina, a college graduation gift from my parents. I went to my friend Jeremy’s house where I was staying for a few days before my own apartment was vacant. Jeremy was out of town, but on his bed he’d left a copy of a newspaper called The Onion and a note: “Read this. I think you’ll like it.” I did. And I did. And now that feels like one of those moments when one’s destiny is, quietly, fixed.

    Read More

    Jul
    25
    2013

  • Posters for The Omega Man.

    Jul
    25
    2013
  • I should probably use Tumblr more.

    Jul
    25
    2013
  • Physical Media Dilemma #63: I know I’ve posted about this topic before and as far as “problems” go it’s nothing, but it weighs on me. This is what remains of the items in a storage locker my wife and I rent. We’re trying to pare down our possessions because it’s just impractical to own so much stuff, particularly in the city. What you see above, apart from a few other items, are tubs filled with CDs. I know I’ll listen to the music on a lot of them again but I’ll almost certainly never play the discs. I’ve been buying CDs since 1988—first purchase RATTLE AND HUM—and I know I will hold on to some favorites. But I need to winnow this down, right? By about 85% I’m thinking. Right? Help talk me into this. Also: the allure of replacing favorites with vinyl is pretty strong.

    Physical Media Dilemma #63: I know I’ve posted about this topic before and as far as “problems” go it’s nothing, but it weighs on me. This is what remains of the items in a storage locker my wife and I rent. We’re trying to pare down our possessions because it’s just impractical to own so much stuff, particularly in the city. What you see above, apart from a few other items, are tubs filled with CDs. I know I’ll listen to the music on a lot of them again but I’ll almost certainly never play the discs. I’ve been buying CDs since 1988—first purchase RATTLE AND HUM—and I know I will hold on to some favorites. But I need to winnow this down, right? By about 85% I’m thinking. Right? Help talk me into this. Also: the allure of replacing favorites with vinyl is pretty strong.

    Mar
    10
    2013
  • Where do films come from? Where do they go? After a hundred years of movie, we are still not very adept at answering those questions. Let alone the matter of what they do to us while they are ‘here.’ We have set explanations, and we agree more or less that certain arguments apply—that the business system of motion pictures delivers (or seek to sell) these things to us; or that they may be the work of individuals, artists, auteurs, film-makers. Then, as for what they do, why they entertain us—or not. They make us laugh, cry, hide our eyes, or cultivate our souls. They move us. As if we were so important. Or is it just time that is moving? Look back a hundred years or so in your own family history, say, beyond the lives of people you knew or heard of, beyond mere names, to the notional claim that the family tree had branches then. Were those people moved by stories or plays they encountered? Does it matter? I mean ‘matter’ besides the extraordinary, anonymous but undeniable thrust of life itself. What is left of their being moved? Is that load there in our spit, our blood or our come?

    -

    —David Thomson, The Alien Quartet

    That’s the lyrical opening to David Thomson’s otherwise prosaic book on the Alien series, the fourth in a short-lived series of movie guides published by Bloomsbury in the ’90s. I like that quote and return to it from time to time because I don’t really have an answer to its questions. Even those first two. I’ve been at this thing I do long enough to forget whole films until stumbling across an old review I’ve written about them. I’ve seen movies inflate to dominate the cultural conversation only to fade away in a month, or a year, or a decade. (In the summer of ‘89 I saw heads with the Batman logo shaved into them but it’s hard to find too many people with a kind word for that movie now.) And I’ve seen other films linger like ghosts, sometimes passed down in moments borrowed by other films, sometimes in the memories of others. To talk about movies is to talk about ephemeral things that, in one way or another, live forever. Maybe the role they play in what Thomson calls the “undeniable thrust of life itself” is reason enough to say they matter.

    Mar
    06
    2013
  • Late to the Movies: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
I don’t want to spill a lot of words on this one since it’s already been talked to death (and subsequently half forgotten). I eyed this movie warily before it came out as it got passed from Guilermo Del Toro back to Peter Jackson and then expanded from one to two to three movies for reasons that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, at least from a creative standpoint. My wariness grew as I heard reports of the 48 FPS projection and its disturbing, more-vivid-than-life-itself qualities and intensified when the less-than-stellar reviews started appearing. Nonetheless, it’s not like I wasn’t going to see it. I love Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Worst-case scenario, this would just feel like a bloated postscript with some memorable moments.
It’s good to prepare worst-case scenarios, isn’t it? Leaving aside the 48 FPS issue for the moment, it’s a slog to get to the memorable sequences. Watching it, I was reminded of how deftly Jackson and his collaborators adapted the massive Rings trilogy into three films. It took some effort to streamline all that narrative into feature-length films (longs ones, sure) while still finding room for the characters to come alive and the space for all those action sequences. The Hobbit has trouble pulling off the same trick in reverse. I knew I was in trouble when Bilbo breathlessly laid out the back story for what felt like 30 minutes and then the subtitle, An Unexpected Journey, flashed on the screen. There’s good stuff between the bloat, though. Martin Freeman’s a lot of fun as Bilbo, Ian McKellen has some fine moments, and the confrontation with Gollum is a real highlight. There’s a lot of imagination in the production design, too. (I was particularly fond of the Storm Giants, but could have done without the scrotum-necked Goblin King.)
As for the 48 FPS projection, I can’t say I wasn’t warned and I didn’t expect to like it. But my attitude was to treat it like an aesthetic choice. Jackson wanted the moive to have that look so I should give it a chance. We live in changing times. I love film as much as the next person but I’ve seen some directors find the aesthetic advantages in digital. (Che was a real turning point for me in appreciating what someone who knows how to play to the strengths of new technology can do.) And I can kind of see why he would want The Hobbit to have that look. In the effects sequences, where real actors fight CGI beasties, both realities live side-by-side seamlessly. As proof that, yes, Jackson’s effects studio knows what it’s doing, it’s extremely impressive.
On the other hand, it’s that sort of vividness is all wrong for a movie like The Hobbit, at least to my eyes. Why give a fantasy film the hard digital sheen of news footage? There’s a scene in the goblin cave when Gandalf scares off the bad guys with a flash of light and it took me a moment to figure out what the flash of light reminded me of. Then it hit me: It looked like a stage effect, as if someone were shining a spotlight at the audience. Carrying that thought a little further, The Hobbit looked like a really elaborate version of a filmed opera much of the time, a sort of Live From The Met with orcs instead of arias. I felt less transported to another world than dropped in the middle of its elaborate sets. Is that where we’re heading, toward movies that aspire to be more like a windows than a canvases? I hope not. I’m glad I had a look at what 48 FPS looks like, but I left The Hobbit hoping never to see it again.
Also, some of those dwarves looked way too tall.

    Late to the Movies: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

    I don’t want to spill a lot of words on this one since it’s already been talked to death (and subsequently half forgotten). I eyed this movie warily before it came out as it got passed from Guilermo Del Toro back to Peter Jackson and then expanded from one to two to three movies for reasons that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense, at least from a creative standpoint. My wariness grew as I heard reports of the 48 FPS projection and its disturbing, more-vivid-than-life-itself qualities and intensified when the less-than-stellar reviews started appearing. Nonetheless, it’s not like I wasn’t going to see it. I love Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Worst-case scenario, this would just feel like a bloated postscript with some memorable moments.

    It’s good to prepare worst-case scenarios, isn’t it? Leaving aside the 48 FPS issue for the moment, it’s a slog to get to the memorable sequences. Watching it, I was reminded of how deftly Jackson and his collaborators adapted the massive Rings trilogy into three films. It took some effort to streamline all that narrative into feature-length films (longs ones, sure) while still finding room for the characters to come alive and the space for all those action sequences. The Hobbit has trouble pulling off the same trick in reverse. I knew I was in trouble when Bilbo breathlessly laid out the back story for what felt like 30 minutes and then the subtitle, An Unexpected Journey, flashed on the screen. There’s good stuff between the bloat, though. Martin Freeman’s a lot of fun as Bilbo, Ian McKellen has some fine moments, and the confrontation with Gollum is a real highlight. There’s a lot of imagination in the production design, too. (I was particularly fond of the Storm Giants, but could have done without the scrotum-necked Goblin King.)

    As for the 48 FPS projection, I can’t say I wasn’t warned and I didn’t expect to like it. But my attitude was to treat it like an aesthetic choice. Jackson wanted the moive to have that look so I should give it a chance. We live in changing times. I love film as much as the next person but I’ve seen some directors find the aesthetic advantages in digital. (Che was a real turning point for me in appreciating what someone who knows how to play to the strengths of new technology can do.) And I can kind of see why he would want The Hobbit to have that look. In the effects sequences, where real actors fight CGI beasties, both realities live side-by-side seamlessly. As proof that, yes, Jackson’s effects studio knows what it’s doing, it’s extremely impressive.

    On the other hand, it’s that sort of vividness is all wrong for a movie like The Hobbit, at least to my eyes. Why give a fantasy film the hard digital sheen of news footage? There’s a scene in the goblin cave when Gandalf scares off the bad guys with a flash of light and it took me a moment to figure out what the flash of light reminded me of. Then it hit me: It looked like a stage effect, as if someone were shining a spotlight at the audience. Carrying that thought a little further, The Hobbit looked like a really elaborate version of a filmed opera much of the time, a sort of Live From The Met with orcs instead of arias. I felt less transported to another world than dropped in the middle of its elaborate sets. Is that where we’re heading, toward movies that aspire to be more like a windows than a canvases? I hope not. I’m glad I had a look at what 48 FPS looks like, but I left The Hobbit hoping never to see it again.

    Also, some of those dwarves looked way too tall.

    Jan
    31
    2013
  • Getting some nice response to my first Movie Club post in Slate. (I could have responded to the first part, but what do you say to the second?)

    Getting some nice response to my first Movie Club post in Slate. (I could have responded to the first part, but what do you say to the second?)

    Jan
    08
    2013
  • jasonsimsiscallingyou:

    Keith is the former editor of the Onion A.V. Club who now freelances in Chicago, IL.

    JasonSimsIsCallingYou.Tumblr.com

    Subscribe to the podcast: RSS or iTunes

    Jan
    06
    2013
  • A shot I love: Petulia (1968)
I watched Petulia again today in advance of talking about it for a podcast on Monday. It’s one of my favorite films, as anyone who’s ever been to my place knows since a giant poster of it hangs in my hallway. I don’t think I’d ever noticed how gorgeous this shot is, with a melancholy Julie Christie leaning on a sousaphone as George C. Scott looks on, all the “kook,” to use the film’s preferred term, drained out of her demeanor. To get the full effect, you have to see the scene, which begins with Christie appearing only as a reflection in the horn’s bell as Scott walks up toward the front of the frame, and into focus, before the camera pans over for the composition seen above. It’s just a moment out of time beneath a gloomy San Francisco sky. Somewhere nearby the promise of the Summer Of Love is unfolding, but these two will only get to look on from a distance.

    A shot I love: Petulia (1968)

    I watched Petulia again today in advance of talking about it for a podcast on Monday. It’s one of my favorite films, as anyone who’s ever been to my place knows since a giant poster of it hangs in my hallway. I don’t think I’d ever noticed how gorgeous this shot is, with a melancholy Julie Christie leaning on a sousaphone as George C. Scott looks on, all the “kook,” to use the film’s preferred term, drained out of her demeanor. To get the full effect, you have to see the scene, which begins with Christie appearing only as a reflection in the horn’s bell as Scott walks up toward the front of the frame, and into focus, before the camera pans over for the composition seen above. It’s just a moment out of time beneath a gloomy San Francisco sky. Somewhere nearby the promise of the Summer Of Love is unfolding, but these two will only get to look on from a distance.

    Jan
    04
    2013
2/37

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Untitled Keith Phipps Project

Stumble past the record store, end up at the movies

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