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Perfection in the cinema consists in the knowledge that whatever happens there is a barrier between the film and ‘reality'. Colour has removed this last barrier. If there is nothing false in a film it is not a film – one is in competition with the documentary and the result is very boring. Like much of the film shot for American television, which I find lacking in any fictional dimension, anti-dramatic, over-documentary and very boring. And a large part of modern cinema is like that.
François Truffaut, “My thoughts on the New Wave are not uplifting”: Truffaut interviewed in 1979, 7 January 2022

 

 
 

 

Note: My favourite series of 2021

 

 
 

 

For me, the film that marks the beginning of the period of decadence in the cinema is the first James Bond – Dr. No [1962]. Until then the role of the cinema had been by and large to tell a story in the hope that the audience would believe it. There had been a few minority films which were parodies of this narrative tradition, but in the main a film told a story and the audience wanted to believe that story. And at this point we might reopen the old polemic about Hitchcock. For years English critics were reluctant to accept that the films Hitchcock made in America were superior to those he had made in England. The difference for me lies in the fact that Hitchcock's desire to make the audience believe the story is stronger in his American films than in his English ones.
... But the reason I talk of a period of decadence ushered in by the Bond films is that before that parody had been of only minority or snob appeal, but with the Bond films it became a popular genre. For the first time throughout the world mass audiences were exposed to what amounts to a degradation of the art of cinema, a type of cinema which relates neither to life nor to any romantic tradition but only to other films and always by sending them up. What's more, Hitchcock's career began to suffer from the time of the arrival of the first Bond films, since they were a sort of plagiarised version of North by Northwest [1959], his finest thriller. He could not compete with the Bond films and after this he was increasingly obliged to make small-budget films. Perhaps he was also getting rather too old. For instance, had he been ten years younger he might well have made disaster movies. Don't forget he went to America to film ‘The Titanic' but this was replaced by Rebecca [1940].
François Truffaut, “My thoughts on the New Wave are not uplifting”: Truffaut interviewed in 1979, 7 January 2022

It was my aunt Talia Shire who first said to me, ‘Naturalism is a style,' And I was also a big believer in arts synchronicity, and that what you could do with one art form you could do and another meaning. You know, in painting, for example, you can get abstract, you can get photorealistic, you can get impressionistic, why not try that with film performance? I was experimenting with what I would like to call Western Kabuki or more Baroque or operatic style of film performance. Break free from the naturalism, so to speak, and express a larger way of performance.
... With the risk of sounding like a pretentious asshole, I like the word ‘thespian' [more than 'actor'.] Because ‘thespian' means you're going into your heart, or you're going into your imagination, or your memories or your dreams, and you're bringing something back to communicate with the audience.
Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage Defends ‘Operatic' Film Performances: ‘Naturalism Is a Style', 31 December 2021

In the mainstream cinema of the 80s in Hollywood, filmmakers like John Landis, Jonathan Demme and Joe Dante were working within the boundaries of this Hollywood system but they were really making very radical films. A movie like Trading Places [1983] is such a wonderful, beautiful homage to Preston Sturges's cinema, and at the same time it's such an incredible and beautiful parable of what capitalism is, and how we can fight it. When you see a comedy of manners today, made within the system of studios or streamers, it's completely toothless and very disappointing.
... The upside [of today] is that you have access to a lot of information, you have access to a lot of discoveries, you even have access to the actual texts – you can see movies more easily than we used to. The bad thing is that in a way, this very immediacy of the digital hypertext and knowledge may give you the idea that you know more than you actually do, and create a platoon of superficial cinephiles, whereas cinephiles by definition are not superficial, they are obsessive.
Luca Guadagnino, Luca Guadagnino on the future of film, 16 December 2021

Reviewing the data on this site demonstrated that people do tend to like villains who share their traits, people became fans of villains who were similar to them at higher rates than they became fans of heroes who were like them.
Scotty Hendricks, Study: We like villains similar to ourselves, 7 May 2020

There is a lot of pressure on filmmakers, from the media, to get them to introduce a political dimension, even an artificial one, into their work. It is very important to resist this. Filmmaking should be a pleasure, not a duty. You don't make a film to please a particular section of public opinion. You make a film for your own pleasure and in the hope that the audience will share it. If filmmaking became a duty I would do something else.
François Truffaut, “My thoughts on the New Wave are not uplifting”: Truffaut interviewed in 1979, 7 January 2022

 

 
 

 

Note: These are my favourite films representing 20th century Russia/Soviet/Russia.

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How is [the movie business] changing? One of the fundamental ways it's changing is that the people who want to see complicated, adult, non-IP dramas are the same people who are saying to themselves, ‘You know what? I don't need to go out to a movie theater because I'd like to pause it, go to the bathroom, finish it tomorrow.' It's that, along with the fact that you can watch with good quality at home. It's not like when I was a kid and the TV at home was an 11-inch black-and-white TV. I mean, you can get a 65-inch TV at Walmart for $130. There's good quality out there and people are at home streaming in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. It's all changed.
Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck Knows the Real Reason 'The Last Duel' Suffered at the Box Office, 16 December 2021

I'm an actor, and that's what I do for a living: try to be people that I'm not. What do we do with Marlon Brando playing Vito Corleone? What do we do with Margaret Thatcher played by Meryl Streep? Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln? Why does this conversation happen with people with accents? You have your accent. That's where you belong. That's tricky. Where is that conversation with English-speaking people doing things like ‘The Last Duel,' where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages? That's fine. But me, with my Spanish accent, being Cuban? What I mean is, if we want to open the can of worms, let's open it for everyone. The role came to me, and one thing that I know for sure is that I'm going to give everything that I have.
Javier Bardem, Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman Both Tried to Back Out of ‘Being the Ricardos': ‘Sh*t, What Did We Do?', 15 December 2021

I wouldn't say no [to TV serie], but I wouldn't know where to begin. I had this conversation with Quentin [Tarantino]: I think neither one of us has a problem with writing material. Sometimes the problem can be cutting material, you know? Sometimes you're in the middle of writing something and you have way more than you need and you go, Well, maybe this should be a TV show, you know? That's not the solution. The solution is not to just use a lot of B-material and make a longer-form thing. The solution would be cut down, get to your good material, tell your story properly and make a film. So, I've never thought about it in a very serious way. I don't watch a lot of it, so I don't know exactly how it works. The structure is something I'd have to learn, you know. I don't mean to sound like an idiot. Of course I've seen episodic television, but there's a rhythm to that writing and a structuring of how you pull a story over multiple episodes, which at this point would be a huge learning curve. The people who do it, do it incredibly well. I think I'd feel a little bit like a tourist trying to step into that.
Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson Says We Need Movies of All Sizes for Hollywood to be Successful, 14 December 2021

There is a danger that we [documentary filmmakers] are so hooked on story. Particularly the kind of Western, three-act story structure with conflict and resolution, and a hero — often a him — who wants something he can't have: How's he going to get it? That's what many gatekeepers mean by story … the beautiful diversity and richness of the non-fiction form is being narrowed and all commodified into that kind of story. Non-fiction is wearing the clothes of fiction or television and attracting those audiences because it's so satisfying.
Tabitha Jackson, The Future of Documentary Filmmaking Is Bright, but It Remains a High-Risk Endeavor, 11 December 2021

One of the things I've wrestled with is trust, and Sidney [in "Scream" ] trusted no one. Did she really know her mother? Is her boyfriend who he says he is? In the end she wasn't even trusting herself. As a gay kid, I related to the final girl [the surviving woman at the end of a horror movie], and to her struggle because it's what one has to do to survive as a young gay kid, too. You're watching this girl survive the night and survive the trauma she's enduring. Subconsciously, I think the Scream movies are coded in gay survival.
Kevin Williamson, It turns out the ‘Scream' movies are all about being gay, 6 December 2021

I think what it boils down to — what we've got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cell phones. The millennian, [who] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you told it on the cell phone…This is a broad stroke, but I think we're dealing with it right now with Facebook. This is a misdirection that has happened where it's given the wrong kind of confidence to this latest generation, I think.
Ridley Scott, Ridley Scott to Journalist Who Says ‘Last Duel' Is More Realistic Than His Past Films: ‘Go F*ck Yourself', 4 December 2021

The Hand of God is a completely different movie for me. I was scared to do these kind of scenes that I never did before. I normally adopt a certain style: I move my camera around because I'm searching for the truth. In this case, the approach was completely the opposite. Because I already had the truth, I didn't need to go and look for it. I decided that if I kept my camera still, [the actors] would feel freer to express themselves with sincerity and authenticity, which is what they did.
Paolo Sorrentino, ‘Let's say that almost everything is true', 4 December 2021

It represents a divine opportunity to really sink into something that comes very naturally to me … which is to be really slow, which I naturally am, and to be really still, which I naturally am — I'm a lazy beast, I like to be slow when I'm not in a social situation where I get drawn into the energy of other people, because I'm also porous. By being dislocated, she is super connected, which makes her still because she's not actually driving anything. She's not offering anything. She's not chattering away. She's not making any kind of social pose, she's sort of borderless.
Tilda Swinton, ‘Memoria': Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton Embrace the ‘Divine Opportunity' of Their Meditative Oscar Entry, 15 November 2021

I worked harder [in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ] than I've ever worked on anything and I'm really proud of it. But I didn't feel represented. There was an interview I gave where I said, ‘Why can't Peter explore his bisexuality in his next film? Why can't [his girlfriend] MJ be a guy?' I was then put under a lot of pressure to retract that and apologize for saying something that is a legitimate thing to think and feel. So I said, ‘OK, so you want me to make sure that we get the bigots and the homophobes to buy their tickets?'
Andrew Garfield, Andrew Garfield's Comments About Bi Spider-Man Are Still Important, 12 November 2021

I don't want to use the casting consultant as cover. I want to tell you my opinion on this [casting in “Being the Ricardos” ] and I stand by it, which is this: Spanish and Cuban aren't actable, okay? They're not actable. By the way, neither are straight and gay. Because I know there's a small movement underway that only gay actors should play gay characters. Gay and straight aren't actable. You could act being attracted to someone, but most nouns aren't actable.
... We know when we're being demeaning. We know that Black face is demeaning because of its historical context because you're making ridiculous cartoon caricatures out of people. We know that Mickey Rooney with the silly piece in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's' and that makeup doing, silly Japanese speak, we know that's demeaning. This is not, I felt. Having an actor who was born in Spain playing a character who was born in Cuba was not demeaning. And it wasn't just the casting consultant who agreed, Lucy and Desi's Cuban-American daughter didn't have a problem with it. So, I'm very comfortable with it.
Aaron Sorkin, Aaron Sorkin Defends Casting Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball: ‘I'm Not Looking' for Impersonation, 11 November 2021

I loved the fact that you can explore complex and controversial work and the audience in their homes are totally up for it, whereas with film it's hard to do work like that, because as soon as some exec says they don't understand it, you've lost the game. But, to be honest, I was so exhausted after [TV series] Top of the Lake that I thought, ‘Oh my God, making a two-hour film seems like heaven.'
... Film-making set me free. Before I found it, I had a lot of energy, but I was lost as to how to express it or even be in the world. I found the challenge of making a film so exciting, it was as if I had found myself.
... Well, I'm not thinking in terms of what's next any more, that's for sure. It's more, if something takes my fancy, I'm going to do it. Is that a shift of consciousness? Maybe. I am certainly going to use my energies differently from now on. For one thing, I'm starting a pop-up film school, because I really hate how unequal education is for people with money and people without money. I really hate it.
Jane Campion, ‘Film-making set me free… it was as if I had found myself', 7 November 2021

When the most intense moment of a James Bond film exploits the potential death of a child — [...] — it's time to give up. No Time to Die (series sequel 24) proves that the decades-old James Bond franchise has reached a dead end. The turn toward sadism that began with Daniel Craig's angry, sinister interpretation of 007 has reached an unconscionable level of heartlessness. Does anyone believe in the series anymore? Even the producers have forsaken the ethical delight that once guaranteed a Bond movie's insouciance and thrills.
... No Time to Die needs what all those earlier villains provided for their times; it needs a George Soros figure (or maybe a Xi Jinping) to set the bar for an appropriate James Bond antagonist — if we still fantasize that Bond is the Western world's savior. But No Time to Die indicates that Bond and his audience are tired, exhausted, and defeated.
Armond White, James Bond Gets COVID in No Time to Die, 8 October 2021

I mean, of course, I have an artistic envy of those people, how plugged into a moment a musician can be, how different their medium is to mine. But none of my films have been driven by that. They're more about what the music means culturally, how it changed the world. I remember saying to people during the Dylan project: ‘I would want to make a film about Bob Dylan even if I didn't care for his music,' simply because of his impact and uniqueness and complexities and contradictions and the way he gets to some core idea about America and then reflects that back in the various chapters of his life.
... And it's the same with glam rock in Velvet Goldmine. The idea of it as this cultural accident which inverted notions of masculinity and heteronormativity in such a singular way – and also did it in the mainstream, beamed into people's living rooms. The power of popular art to circle around those questions of identity, to rupture them, to shatter them. Those are the themes I keep coming back to.
Todd Haynes, ‘This world is too cosy. Except cosy is almost too cosy a word', 7 October 2021

It was at the L.A. premiere of ‘Children of Dune,' and [Claudia Black] said to me, that the thing with this shit, i.e. science fiction, is that you have to believe it more than you believe good writing. Good writing, you can just do. It's easier. But this stuff is hard, because it's so bonkers, you know what I mean? I've really, I've always remembered that advice and taken it to heart.
James McAvoy, James McAvoy Learned a Valuable Lesson About Sci-Fi After Starring in 2003 ‘Dune' Series, 28 September 2021

When I first got into the movie business — it's been almost 40 years ago — the reason I was able to make movies with Ethan [Coen], the reason we were able to have a career is because the studios at that point had an ancillary market that was a backstop for more risky films, which were VHS cassettes or all these home video markets, which is essentially television.
... So the fact that those markets are sort of responsible for my career, I'm not going to bust on them now because they've become very successful and are overtaking the market. It's the reason I'm able to do this stuff.
... I have mixed feelings about [streaming] obviously. You want people to see it on a big screen. But the other part of it is that's been part of the history of our movies since the very beginning. That's the best answer I can give you.
Joel Coen, Streaming Is Reason ‘Risky' Films Like ‘Tragedy of Macbeth' Can Still Exist, 24 September 2021

It can be seen as an event in history that lasted for however long it lasted, this cancel culture, this instant rush to judgement based on what essentially amounts to polluted air. It's so far out of hand now that I can promise you that no one is safe. Not one of you. No one out that door. No one is safe.
... It takes one sentence and there's no more ground, the carpet has been pulled. It's not just me that this has happened to, it's happened to a lot of people. This type of thing has happened to women, men. Children have suffered from various types of unpleasantries. Sadly at a certain point they begin to think that it's normal. Or that it's them. When it's not.
Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp Rails Against Cancel Culture: ‘No One Is Safe. Not One of You.', 22 September 2021

‘True Detective' was presented to me in the way we pitched it around town — as an independent film made into television. The writer and director are a team. Over the course of the project, Nic [Pizzolatto, writer] kept positioning himself as if he was my boss and I was like, ‘But you're not my boss. We're partners. We collaborate.' By the time they got to postproduction, people like [former HBO programming president] Michael Lombardo were giving Nic more power. It was disheartening because it didn't feel like the partnership was fair.
... As for their creative differences, Nic is a really good writer, but I do think he needs to be edited down. It becomes too much about the writing and not enough about the momentum of the story. My struggle with him was to take some of these long dialogue scenes and put some air into them. We differed on tone and taste.
Cary Fukunaga, Working on ‘True Detective' Became ‘Disheartening' as Nic Pizzolatto Got More Power, 22 September 2021

I just wrote a little something, for writers, really. Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn't comfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success—do not be afraid to disappear. From it. From us. For a while. And see what comes to you in the silence. I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault. Thank you.
Michaela Coel, Read and Watch Michaela Coel's Inspirational Emmy Speech, 20 September 2021

Black Panther's relatively novel concept imagined the faux African kingdom Wakanda, whereas Shang-Chi pilfers from already familiar and much more original and artistic Chinese martial-arts genre movies — reducing them to the level of Marvel junk.
... Black Panther's naïve fans let Marvel get away with portraying Afrocentric fantasy as both pretend-history and the Afro-punk future (catnip to an ignorant generation so desperate for any folklore to call its own that it submits to Hollywood's escapist propaganda). But Shang-Chi will need viewers who pretend they've never seen better than this poor Hollywood imitation of Hong Kong movie mastery, which has a long tradition.
Armond White, Marvel's Shang-Chi — Crouching Cinema, Hidden Agenda, 8 September 2021

The memory as a kid was always, we were waiting for what happened in America. So, you know, films were always shown in America first. I remember hearing about Indiana Jones or the next Star Wars, and you'd see pictures on the news of people queuing for the cinema in the States and you'd think: ‘Well, when are we gonna get it?' There was always this sense of it being ahead. They did a phenomenal job of selling us this lifestyle that just seemed so other and glamorous and cool.
Jude Law, ‘I remember being told not to get above myself. Such appalling British advice', 20 August 2010

In “Emily in Paris” and other recent programming, Netflix is pioneering a genre that I've come to think of as ambient television. It's “as ignorable as it is interesting,” as the musician Brian Eno wrote, when he coined the term “ambient music” in the liner notes to his 1978 album “Ambient 1: Music for Airports,” a wash of slow melodic synth compositions. Ambient denotes something that you don't have to pay attention to in order to enjoy but which is still seductive enough to be compelling if you choose to do so momentarily. Like gentle New Age soundscapes, “Emily in Paris” is soothing, slow, and relatively monotonous, the dramatic moments too predetermined to really be dramatic. Nothing bad ever happens to our heroine for long. The earlier era of prestige TV was predicated on shows with meta-narratives to be puzzled out, and which merited deep analyses read the day after watching. Here, there is nothing to figure out; as prestige passes its peak, we're moving into the ambient era, which succumbs to, rather than competes with, your phone.
Kyle Chayka, “Emily in Paris” and the Rise of Ambient TV, 16 November 2020

 

 
 

 

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