Monday, January 7, 2013

Favorites of 2012: Misc.

Favorite Non-Film Magazines:
  • I picked up the Totally Twilight issue of People (left) as a gift for the girlfriend because I thought that she would like it. She's been taking me for years to see the new Twilight films and I've always been joining her begrudgingly. "These films are for teenage girls," I've always thought. But then I started watching the films and started to "get them," you know? I mean they are actually quite interesting and Bill Condon especially has been doing a great job with the two Breaking Dawn films (I especially like the references to Coppola's Dracula in the former). Since the beginning of the series the movies have been about how it feels for teenage girls to fall in love: the ups and the downs. So if New Moon and Eclipse are the low point of the franchise, it is not to discredit them, as much as the angst and irrationality of that eternal vamp Bella (Kristen Stewart) make for burdening material. So I browsed through the Twilight issue and I concluded: the pictures in it are pretty cool. Well worth the near-twenty dollars price tag. I'll miss Bella and Edward, and the whole Cullens family, now that the series is over but it warms my heart to know that they are happy and I hope that they live happily ever after with their new daughter. 
  • The comedy issue of Vanity Fair (right) edited by Judd Apatow is a survey of American comedy in its many incarnations from stand-up, television, podcasts, movies and so on. Apatow, who is promoting his new and great post-Spielbergian film This is 40, is able to get an impressive roster of comedians to take part and contribute to the issue which also includes a hilarious photo spread. Some people that are highlighted include Steve Martin, The Lonely Island, Conan O'Brien, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Jim Carrey, the Masters (Lear, Brooks, Barr, Milch, Reubens, Shandling), Will Ferrell, the Blues Brothers, David Kamp, Albert Brooks, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and the old gang from Freaks and Geeks. The filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who has always been incorporating rock and roll music in his films, has a good piece Rocking the Role on the subject of the many musicians that have been drawn to film. There is a good e-mail interview with Chris Rock, where in answering the questions of whether he thinks comedians are better now? "Hell fuckin' no. Show me one guy or woman as funny as Rodney Dangerfield or as good as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby or Joan Rivers." Apatow, who this year also produced Lena Dunham's wonderful television series Girls, is a major force in contemporary American film comedy and is shaping it as it is evolving with the 21st century. This special guest-edited issue of Vanity Fair, the third honor in the magazine's history, contextualizes Apatow's work within the industry (though Woody Allen is conspicuously absent), and gives him the space to share who and what is able to make him laugh, which can be one of the most important of things sometimes.
Favorite French Film Critics:
  • Nicolas Azalbert at Cahiers du Cinéma
    • It's been a great year at the French film-magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. The films they highlight and their reviews continue to be some of the most insightful writing about cinema and the features are always interesting; this year they included ones on Eastwood, Spielberg, Coppola, Sukorov's Faust, Serge Daney, eroticism, Holy Motors, women filmmakers, Hong Sang-Soo and so on. The chief editor Stéphane Delorme's best and most personal piece is his comments on Philippe Garrel's l'enfant secret in 11 stations, pour une histoire poétique du cinema français ("This film, I could make it, I could have made it, it watches me. This isn't a pretense, it's a certainty."), and the adjoined editor Jean-Philippe Tessé's had great reviews of Cronenberg's Cosmopolis and Coppola's Twixt (N.677-78). But the one writer that sticks out amongst everyone else is Nicolas Azalbert. It's hard to really characterizes Azalbert's writing because there is nothing really similar to it. If you see his name on a page there is a shock of recognition and a preparation as the words on the paper will hit you like a grenade exploding as he devastates established though by arguing for a more unconventional, enlightened perspective. It's a writing that is characterized by its singularity, thoughtfulness and use of polemic. Azalbert's lengthy reviews included Hugo, Tahrir, place de la libération, L'Inconsolable,  Like Someone in Love, 4:44 Last Day on Earth and there were many smaller capsules in the Notes sur d'autre films
  • Fabien Gaffez and Pierre Berthomieu at Positif.
    • The ten films that Positif put on their cover this year include: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Beyond the Hills, Amour, A perdre la raison, The Deep Blue Sea, Vous n'avez encore rien vu, 2 Days in New York, Les Adieux à la reine, The Descendants, and Take Shelter. As I've been arguing in the lively comments forum of one of the great French film blogs, Nightswimming, Positif is championing an artistic cinema: that of a post-Malick generation of filmmakers (Nichols, Zeitlin), that of British cinema and expanding the discourse of world cinema (Romania), and a French cinema that can be either prestigious or relaxed. Where Cahiers is singling out films that are falling prey to a trend in international art cinema of aesthetic-asphyxiation (where style consumes substance) and using their reviews of them as sites of contestation, Positif seems to be putting forth a more comprehensive, authoritative and insightful overview of the year's cinematic output (the Cahiers guys would argue, "what is the point of efficient films if they are without life or affect?"). So Positif continues to impress with the quality of it's reviews - still inspired by the Surrealistic impulse to write about films with jouissance - and the quantity of writing it publishes in each new issue in its Présences du Cinéma (Voix Off, Bloc-Notes etc.) and Dossiers sections. Of courses, there is Michel Ciment's regular editorial that opens the magazine and provides it with its tone, and to name a couple of good writers I have been getting more interested in recently there is Fabien Baumann and Adrien Gombeaud, but for me right now the two most interesting writers are Fabien Gaffez and Pierre Berthomieu. The author of Hollywood moderne - le temps des voyants Berthomieu is more interesting when he's not writing in Positif (his 5 films de Steven Spielberg video for the Cinémathèque française alone puts him in the pantheon) but when he has the opportunity - he shines. Gaffez, who this year was in Toronto to introduce a couple of Jean Eustache films and participated in a lively panel about the state of film criticism, has an identifiable writing style and the film-review of his that comes to mind is for Guillaume Brac's under-appreciated Un Monde Sans Femmes (which still needs to play in Toronto) and his longer pieces in the war dossier Full Reagan Jacket: Du bon usage des sauvages en temps de guerre (N.620) and in the painting dossier, Le rouge et le vert: D'Edward Hopper a Robby Muller (621). What makes the writing of Berthomieu and Gaffez so valuable is that in magazine where the Cimentian line is strictly enforced their writing takes Ciment's ideas and pushes them to the limit and into places that they would not necessarily go - yes, if Kubrick is the greatest, then when he died that title was passed onward to Spielberg - and their writing flirts with these bizarre and the mysterious ideas. It can be troubling. In Full Reagan Jacket Gaffez looks at the lessons of the Kubrick film, Full Metal Jacket (a Positif favorite), and discusses it along with Apocalypse Now, Rambo, Casualties of War and other films, so by the time he reaches the conclusion the traditional parameters of the war genre film has slowly disintegrated and when Gaffez concludes, "Predator has still not finished to enlighten us on matters surrounding war, the reconstitution of the self, and the difficulty and beauty of being of man." You can't help but not be in total agreement.

1 comment:

David Davidson said...

Edouard Sivière writes,
"Great post. Interesting things you write on Nicolas Azalbert, which I don't know much. From now on, I'll pay more attention on his writings...
I agree with you about Gaffez and Berthomieu. I would add Jean-Christophe Ferrari.
I give you my favorites reviews of the year in Positif :
- "Tempêtes sous un crâne" (Take shelter / F. Gaffez)
- "Requiem pour Raoul Ruiz" (Guy Scarpetta)
- "Faille historique" (Le Fossé / Vincent Thabourey)
- "Tombe des idées envoutées : Notes sur Edgar Poe à l'écran" (Berthomieu)
- "Capitalisme hémophile" (Cosmopolis / JC Ferrari)
- "Le champ/contrechamp à mort" (Vous n'avez encore rien vu / Ferrari)
- "Le rouge et le vert : d'Edward Hopper à Robby Muller" (Gaffez)
- "La chair du monde" (Les bêtes du sud sauvage / Ferrari)
- "Le minimalisme de notre présent" (Cogan / Berthomieu)
- "Quelque chose de l'enfance, quelque chose de la maturité" (Raoul Ruiz / Yannick Lemarié)
- and a few more..."