essays on film, television, comics, & cars.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: The Final Rodeo
In Sculpting in Time, Andrei Tarkovsky wrote: “Proust also spoke of raising ‘a vast edifice of memories,’ and that seems to me to be what cinema is called to do.” In his ninth film, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino resurrects the past as he remembers it and as he wishes it might have been.
The Transformative Dream Of ANNIHILATION
SPOILERS for Annihilation to follow
“Usually if people are talking about what something means in a movie, it means you’ve got a movie people want to see. It’s like the obelisk in 2001. People went around for year sitting in McDonald’s and Bel Air cocktail parties saying, ‘What the hell does that obelisk mean?’” - William Friedkin
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” - Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
The Poetry Of BLADE RUNNER 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is a poem. It’s a neo-noir about the mystery of the self, empathy, connection, how we define what’s real, whether it matters at all. And it’s a love story about a replicant and a digital woman.
The Universe Of John Wick
John Wick: Chapter 3 opens with John Wick on the run, hoping to beat the clock before he’s officially excommunicado. He races down an alleyway, through pouring rain and neon-burnished darkness, Dog alongside him. Everyone in New York seems to be an assassin waiting for their chance to kill John Wick. With its cool colors and deep blacks, drama, and heightened reality, the John Wick saga is both chiaroscuro and a comic book, a Caravaggio painting made real.
Wake Up, Joe: On YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
In the city at night, Joe stakes out a house where a little girl named Nina’s been taken. He waylays an errand boy on the street outside, throwing him in the back of his rental car to interrogate him about the house’s security. Joe introduces himself: “I’m Mr. Rogers.”
What If: The Sexy Noir of Out of Sight
Sirens, searchlights, gunfire. An inmate emerging from a hole in the ground encounters a U.S. Marshal with a shotgun. A friend with a car waits for the inmate, but the marshal is in the way, and so the inmate—smeared with muck—takes the marshal in the trunk with him. The marshal is Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), and the inmate staining her favorite Chanel suit is George Clooney’s Jack Foley.
“Ford v Ferrari” is tense, timely, and transcendent
The best American sports movies are never really about sports; they’re about vulnerable heroes striving to beat invulnerable foes. We don’t even need to see our heroes win—the pleasure is in seeing them try, and fight like hell. These films are fundamentally underdog stories, and James Mangold’s Ford v Ferrari is no exception. With Carroll Shelby’s team up against Enzo Ferrari and the Ford company, Ford v Ferrari is David versus Goliath versus Goliath.
John Carpenter’s CHRISTINE Is GREASE In Hell
An engine revs, and George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” plays. It’s Detroit, 1957. Beige Plymouth Furys roll down an assembly line, and a single gleaming red car stands out among them. A worker pops the red car’s hood, a violation, and she slams it down on his hand. Another man makes the mistake of ashing his cigar on her seats. He doesn’t leave the car alive.
Why Ethan Hunt drives a 1986 5 Series in Mission: Impossible—Fallout
Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout is the most introspective, reflective Mission: Impossible entry yet. It’s a film about Ethan Hunt’s worst fears and regrets made manifest in nightmares, dreams, flash-forwards, and what-ifs.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a high-octane ballet of unfinished business
John Wick’s universe looks like ours, yet exists just beyond it, a liminal place between reality and pulp fantasy, full of color and violence. A shadowy underworld where John’s story plays out like a blood-soaked ballet. Buster Keaton introduces this world to us for a second time in John Wick: Chapter 2. The motorcycle chase from Sherlock Jr. is projected on the side of a skyscraper, and the sounds from John Wick’s own motorcycle chase syncs with it perfectly.
John Wick is classic American action, including the cars
John Wick is a myth. He’s Baba Yaga, the Boogeyman. Or rather, he’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. There’s something supernatural about him. He survives getting shot, beaten, suffocated, hit by a car, stabbed, thrown off a balcony. He once killed three men in a bar with a pencil. He’s Rasputin, an avenging angel, like the Old Testament God. It’s easy to forget that he’s just John when first introduced: a man mourning his wife and “sorting some stuff out,” who loves his dog and his ev...
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is packed with car-fueled nostalgia
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood is a “love letter to Los Angeles”—an homage to 1960s Hollywood. It’s a bittersweet story about the friendship between fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his steadfast stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), a pairing not unlike Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham. It’s both a spaghetti western and an elegiac to the classic American western, with Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton like two cowboys roaming the city.
The secrets behind Tarantino’s Death Proof stunts
In Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the windshield becomes a widescreen that frames the world. The window of a Chevy Nova borders the opening credits, and the feeling that the film was shot from a driver’s POV continues, thanks to the film’s anamorphic format.
Tarantino thinks Death Proof is his worst film, but this exploitation flick is pure trashy fun, a treasure trove for gearheads, and an oddly touching tribute to stunt work...
The Hitcher plays on our deepest fears of the American road
A match is struck. Jim Halsey lights his cigarette in the driver’s seat of a red Cadillac. The road is dark, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Jim starts to nod off—that is, until he pulls over and opens his door for a hitchhiker seemingly stranded in the rain. “My mother told me never to do this,” Jim laughs. The nightmare is just beginning. From this first scene Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher ushers into a dream-like, liminal world, unmoored from reality, from time and place.
POINT BREAK: Kathryn Bigelow’s Subversive Surf Western
The ocean shimmers behind Point Break’s credits, glowing gold. The words Point and Break cross over, merging and dissolving, and so do the names Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi is a silhouette surfing in slow motion against a soft-blue sea as luminous as a Romantic painting, a mythic figure out of time. Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves’s Johnny Utah loads a shotgun in a gray downpour.