Jun 30, 2016


'Such intimacy of collaboration between a writer and director is rare. The days of Howard Hawks playing backgammon on set with Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, or John Ford’s marathon poker sessions with Dudley Nichols, or Hitchcock’s long gourmand lunches with John Michael Hayes have passed into legend, but the franchise farm that is modern Hollywood tends to work against such recurring collaborations. The Harry Potter films were all written by Steve Kloves but farmed out to different directors—similarly the “Bourne” and “Captain America” movies. Martin Scorsese teamed up with writer Paul Schrader three times, for “Taxi Driver” in 1976, “Raging Bull” in 1980, during the making of which they fell out, before reteaming for “Bringing out the Dead,” in 1999, from Joe Connelly’s novel about fried ambulance drivers, itself an homage to Scorsese’s New York, and thus introducing the danger of a kind of creative feedback loop. “The heroine’s called Mary,” Schrader warned the director over dinner. “Watch out for the Catholic symbols. You’ve already done that in ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Raging Bull.’” If self-consciousness is the danger of such reunions, Mathison and Spielberg put it to work for them. Audiences have good reason to fear whenever filmmakers armed with digital paint boxes address the unlimited potential of the imagination as their subject—as Disney’s recent “Alice Through the Looking Glass” showed, C.G.I. imaginariums have a tendency towards gaudy over-crowdedness—but the images of Dahl’s dram country, briefly described in the book, have a classical, organic simplicity: a stream running uphill, a large oak tree reflected in a pool against a starry night sky, its inverted reflection a portal to the dream world. That tree could easily have been tended by Spielberg and Mathison's botanist extraterrestrial from 1982.  Like "E.T." the BFG is a two-hander, a record of a friendship, as well as a rekindled conversation between Mathison and Spielberg, the dream-catcher-turned-corporate-entertainment giant, about the nature of cinematic dreams.' — From my piece for The New Yorker

Jun 29, 2016

Best things I've seen in 2016 so far

1. Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash2.  The night time car rides in Midnight Special 3. Riley Keogh in The Girlfriend Experience 4. The trailer for Hail, Caesar 5. The final shot of The Witch 6. The oak tree in The BFG 7. Kate Beckinsale in Love and Friendship 8. The cliffhangers in Silicon Valley 9. Weiner 10. Winona Ryder in Show Me a Hero

Jun 28, 2016


'Like the novels of Henry James, the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and the Times crossword puzzle, the modern diva thrives on difficulty. Creatures of grit and will­power, sinews and sequins, they are symbols of triumphant selfhood and obstacles overcome. These days, the paradox is played out in the termitic caverns of the internet. Protected by her social media fan posse, the “Beyhive”, Beyoncé recently kicked off her Lemonade tour by selling “Boycott Beyoncé” T-shirts and iPhone cases – a sly appropriation of the calls for a boycott of her shows after her Black Panther-inspired Super Bowl appearance raised the hackles of right-wing attack dogs. Let ’em loose. What doesn’t kill Bey only makes her stronger. Modern-day divahood is self-aware, self-deconstructing and backlash-embracing, but this dynamic is as old as the Hegelian dialectic. “She became popular by demonstrating how someone like her, someone with her seeming disadvantages, could become popular,” writes Neal Gabler in his smart new book, Barbra Streisand, a biography-cum-critical essay on the Brooklyn-born diva. It may be the best book about Streisand you will ever read, an acute and sympathetic rendering of a career forged from yearning and steel – “in one person, Punch and Judy”, in the words of the New Republic’s Stanley Kauffmann. Long before Beyoncé, Streisand’s fame contained its own backlash. “Barbra is the girl guys never look at twice,” said her manager Marty Erlichman. “And when she sings about that – about being an invisible woman – people break their neck trying to protect her.' — from my review of Neal Gabler's Barbara StreisandRedefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power

Jun 8, 2016

Quentin Tarantino Top Ten

As is my tradition when starting a new book on a filmmaker, my list of Tarantino movies, ranked (to see if there are any changes once I've rewatched everything/finished the book).
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Reservoir Dogs
3. Jackie Brown
4. Kill Bill 
5. Deathproof
6. Django Unchained
7. Inglorious Basterds
8. The Hateful Eight

Jun 6, 2016


'Nearly all of her books are set in Baltimore, concern large families, marking time with the usual watersheds of family life — courtship, weddings, children, college, deaths. Observing her characters befuddled comings and goings with sympathy and dry humor, Tyler applies a little nudge here, a prompt there, letting out the occasional sigh of disappointment, as someone’s good intentions don’t quite pan out as planned.  I have read her wise, warm-hearted work — including Dinner at the Homseick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist and the Pulitzer-prize winning Breathing Lessons — religiously for over 20 years but I never thought we would meet.   She isn’t a recluse in the  Salinger mould, exactly — her novels bustle with too much gossip and life to give any impression other than one of supreme embededness — but she hasn’t given an interview in over 40 years. Then in 2012, she gave an interview to NPR to promote her novel The Beginner’s Goodbye. Others followed. Something seemed to have shifted in Tylerland. Some personal perestroika? A deep tectonic shift in the psychic-creative forces that govern literary careers? A kind of settling-up as she enters her eighth decade? Nothing of the sort, she says. Her editors just asked her and this time she thought: why not?  “I often wonder what would happen if I had Tolstoy around for tea,” she says gaily, while preparing coffee for me in her kitchen. “I’d probably have nothing to say to him.”  It’s like hearing that Gorbachev launched glasnost because he woke up one day and fancied a coke.  But then that is very Tyleresque, the long groove of routine disrupted by a sudden burst of to-hell-with-it impetuosity. A small dose of whimsy is detectable in late-period Tyler. ' — from my Sunday Times interview