Aug 30, 2015


“Mother always had to say the truth, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. The phone would ring, and she would pick up. We all trembled — because maybe it was somebody we didn't want to talk to —whisper, whisper — so you would say 'can you call later, leave a message she is not here.' Mother couldn’t even lie to do this — not the tinest white lie. It was always 'don't make her answer the phone, don’t make her do anything because she always told the truth'. ‘My daughter does not want to talk to you..’ And yet she would do this with a naivety, an innocence, that she had. I always felt like my mother was partly my daughter too; I'm much stronger than her; so I was very protective of her. She was so shy, so painfully shy, more a New Yorker than American.” 
Isabella Rossellini on her mother, who would have turned 100 today, from an interview I conducted in 2010

Aug 20, 2015


'Freeman is that undefeatable quarry: the merry philistine. Cultural tastes being the last refuge for the snobberies and attendant anxieties that used to attached themselves to class in Britain, there is great value in a genuine passion that horrifies the room for a writer as punchy and vivacious as Freeman. And decades don’t come much more horrifying than the eighties. The sixties always knew they were cool.  The seventies have received their revisionist due. But the go-getting, greed-is-good, need-for-speed eighties, when producer John Peters, “the man who once permed Yentl’s hair commanded the kind of respect once accorded to Robert Altman”? There’s one lovely moment near the start of her book when Freeman phones up Peter Biskind, the king of seventies revisionism and all things Altmanesque, for advice. “You should really writer about Salvador,” he tells her. “That’s a fascinating film.” She doesn’t have the heart to tell him that by “eighties cinema” she doesn’t mean Oliver Stone’s piercing disquisition on American foreign policy in Latin America, but Three Men and Baby.   “I love the silliness of eighties movies, their sweetness, the stirring music, “ she writes, “I adore montages and anyone who doesn't thrill to a power ballad is lying to themselves” — from my review of Hadley Freeman's Life Moves Pretty Fast for the New Statesman

Aug 16, 2015


'The rules of the apartment were simple: never go out, except when supervised by Oscar. Never talk to strangers. And never go into the rooms which shared adjacent walls with neighbors — the living room and the one the boys called the ‘attic’—  without permission.  “Movies were our window to the outside,” says Narayana, the second eldest. Like all his brothers he is exceedingly polite,  with a placid, thoughtful demeanor that bespeaks a childhood spent largely in his own head, but with a wilder performative side that first manifested itself in lavish at-home re-enactments of all their favorite movies —  Reservoir Dogs, Lord of the Rings, the Dark Knight — complete with astonishingly detailed home-made costumes and props fashioned from cereal boxes and yoga mats. “Sometimes I think of a lot of  our childhood as the Shawshank Redemption, where he says that there is that one place where they can't build walls around, one place that has no cages or cells, one part in you they could never touch. That's hope. And that's one place they can never get to. In our head, we could go wherever we wanted.” This is how they all speak, I realize when I meet the brothers  for breakfast one morning  for breakfast outside a cafe in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, not far from the family apartment: Describing their inner lives they can often sound like they are pitching a movie.  They are lovely lot on all number of counts, not least the seemingly decisive answer they seem to give to the oft-asked question “what happens to the human psyche on an uninterrupted diet of Quentin Tarantino movies, heavy metal and pizza?” The answer is rather more hopeful than you might think. By turns fascinating and fascinated, shy, smart, garrulous, charming, and thoughtful, the Angulo brothers give feral a good name.' — from my interview with the Wolfpack in The Daily Telegraph

Aug 14, 2015


'The actress Greta Gerwig has had same liberating effect for Noah Baumbach what Diane Keaton had for Woody Allen: she has opened him up, lending his films a giddy sense of release. Like Allen, Bambauch’s tendencies are eeyoreish: his characters, in films such as Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding, hyper-articulate   injustice collectors who play their nerves like violins.   But Frances Ha, Baumbach’s first film with Gerwig in 2012, about a young woman trying to find her footing in Manhattan, inhaled deeply of the French nouvelle vague — with it’s black and white cinematography, Georges Delerue on the soundtrack — and outlined in sketch form, a new type of screen heroine, a sort of Annie Hall for millenials: absent-minded, free-spirited and a little dizzy, half in love with her own failures, lolloping from one humiliation to the next as if they confirmed her refusal to join the adult world. The new film fills out the sketch, and adds a spirit of screwball farce — Howard Hawks for the sexting set.  There’s a still a hint of menace at the edges, but Gerwig’s loopy spirit has been allowed to fashion a whole world for her heroine, and the result is more of a piece — it hums and fizzes with the fitful energies of twentysomethings pushing excitedly forward into the world and holding back lest it take a bite out of them. Gerwig gives us a ditz in the manner of Carole Lombard and Judy Holliday but viewed with a touch more sad-sack pitilessness. Dressed in clothes that resemble a child’s raid on her aunts closet, Brooke seems permanently stuck at 21, too busy taking mental selfies of herself having eureka! moments to follow-through on any one of them. An interior designer who also dabbles in Soul-Cycle classes, she nurses plans for a Williamsburg restaurant called Moms, where she would also cut hair and teach cookery. Oh and it would also function as a community centre for like-minded lost souls. All this is delivered in a breathless tumble, with lots of waving as if she forgotten she had hands or where she last put them. "I'm gonna shorten that, punch it up, and turn it into a tweet",’ she says, crossing the street, but even  a tweet sounds beyond her — requiring too much follow-through.' — from my review for Intelligent Life

Aug 8, 2015

Best movies of 2015 so far

1. The Wolfpack
2. Mistress America
3. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
4. Listen To Me Marlon
5. Inside Out
6. The Look of Silence
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
8. While We're Young
9. Ex Machina
10. It Follows

Aug 7, 2015


'The suspicion that the rest of mankind is lying to you is a keen insight in an actor and, at the same time, a recipe for great personal unhappiness. “The most mistrustful man I’ve ever met and the most watchful,” said the screenwriter Stewart Stern of Marlon Brando, a man who raised screen acting to new levels of truthfulness but recoiled from offers of love or friendship as if they were a lie. It’s not that he was gifted but troubled. The gifts were the trouble. Brando saw through everything. “The face can hide many things,” he says in a new documentary, “Listen to Me Marlon”, directed by Stevan Riley and drawing on 300 hours of personal tapes found in the actor’s Beverly Hills home, in which Brando ruminates on his fame, his talent, his failings as a father, voicing regret for a life he feels to have been largely wasted. “I searched but never found what I was looking for,” he confides in that familiar, plummy rasp, like King Lear with a head cold. “Mine was a glamorous life but completely unfulfilling.” The tapes are a performance, too, of course, maybe one of Brando’s best—by turns bawdy, wounded, sentimental, self-pitying, bewildered—much of it teetering on the edge of pseudo-philosophical profundity, like Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”. “All of you are actors, and good actors, because you’re all liars,” he says at one point. “You lie for peace, you lie for tranquility, you lie for love.” Newly arrived in New York with holes in his socks, Brando would position himself on Manhattan street corners, collecting faces as they passed, trying to divine their hidden thoughts and feelings. Faces were masks for Brando, and the film turns his into one too, using a series of Cyberware scans he had made of his face before his death to re-animate him into a floating head. We first see it, rotating and fritzing like a radio signal from beyond the grave, reciting the “sound and fury signifying nothing” soliloquy from “Macbeth”. The effect is spooky, shamanistic—powerful enough to give you goose bumps.' — From my review for Intelligent Life

Aug 6, 2015

So Farewell, Then: Jon Stewart

'There’s been a demob-happy, end-of-school looseness to Jon Stewart as he counts down the days to his final show on Thursday night. For one thing he has been counting, with undisguised glee, blowing kisses to Donald Trump not just for being a gift from the gods — “comedy entrapment” as he put it — but for helping push him across the finishing line. The restlessness he gave as a reason for leaving the show has started to show itself, and the raggedness has only further fuelled his candor. Doing a bit on Mike Huckabee’s characterization of Obama’s Iran deal as marching Israel “to the door of the ovens,” Stewart bypassed words altogether, miming slack-jawed amazement, eye-popping incredulity and Scooby-doo befuddlement (“Urrgh?”) in what amounted to a small masterclass of silent clowning. The idea for the bit seemed to come from Stewart’s dismay at having to write another eye-rolling commentary for another burst of Republican crazy-talk, depletion forcing further invention from him. Exhausted, he still riffs, in part because exhaustion is the correct response to a country in which a deal aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons is compared the holocaust. American pop-culture success is dependent on doing two things extremely well: a very complicated thing and a very simple thing. The complicated thing that Stewart did well has been the subject of the many tributes comparing him to Edward R Murrow and A J Libeling. Stewart combed the broadcast pronouncements of America’s public figures, painstakingly researching their inconsistencies and teasing out their humbug in video montages that made their hypocrisy seem almost self-evident, then sat in frank, eye-rolling amazement at the low-hanging fruit with which he seemed to have been presented. By the end, so primed were the audience for his mugging that he shaved it down to the most minimal of expressions: a cocked eyebrow, a look of deadpan despair, a jowly double take.  Like Sloppy in Dickens Our Mutual Friend, he could “do the police in different voices” tending to   a small barnyard of favorite impressions, reducing Dick Cheney to a single quack, Bush to a Mutley-esque laugh (“heh-heh-heh”), and Trump to de Niro-esque New Joisey thug.' — from my farewell to Jon Stewart for The Economist