Archive | Reviews

Ignited by ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’

What follows is a talk I gave about Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which opened this weekend and which you absolutely must see on a big screen if you love and support contemporary cinema about something besides metaphorical and literal penises.

With its gorgeously textured examination of female desire, creativity and agency, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of my favorite films of 2019.

Though it may seem magically out of time and space, it was shot in a never-rehabbed house in Brittany and set in the autumn of 1770—when all that would remain of a moment after it passed was what could be captured by memory and imagination. Witness one of its first scenes, when Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant, leaps fully clothed into the sea to save her canvases while the guys rowing the boat watch impassively (read: uselessly).

This sets the tone for this film, not only in terms of how largely absent men are—this is the last time we see one until nearly the end—but in terms of the female determination that defines this story. Continue Reading →

Little Women, Inner Children

Yesterday we taped the first episode of Talking Pictures since my back went kablooey (and yes that’s the official medical diagnosis). To celebrate I got it into my head to decorate my head, and so wove into my triple-braided bun pine cones and branches, baby’s breath, and tiny bird. All in all it was an effect that raised more than a few eyebrows among the normally unflappable population of NYC.

Chalk it up to the fact that I was reviewing the most recent iteration of Little Women, which I had approached with great trepidation and from which I had floated with great elation.

There have many, many film, television, and stage adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War-set saga about four Massachusetts sisters who are rich in love and poor in cash, but this is the most ravishing and the first that does not betray the intense feminism of its author. Directed by mumblemouth millennial Greta Gerwig (cue my trepidation), it boasts an intensely good cast including Soirse Ronan as stalwart Jo, Meryl Streep mugging to unusually good effect as drolly disapproving Aunt March, Timotheeee Chalomet very right if too slight as Laurie, and Florence Pugh, channeling the authentically big emotions of Midsommar to animate Amy, the most bedazzled and entitled of the March girls. (Laura Dern is too Modern Millie for the Marnie of my dreams, but I’m immune to her Lynchian charms.) Continue Reading →

Of Homographic Utopias and Dowager Chic (The Sound Inside, Terminator: Dark Fate)

Critic drag with co-panelist Jack Rico.

Yesterday was kind of brilliant. The boys and I taped an episode of Talking Pictures, and for the first time since the show migrated from Spectrum to PBS achieved the right balance of jocularity and specificity. Which is to say: I got my points across with some style and minimal manterruption, and we all laughed a lot.

Link to come shortly.

Afterward I had enough cash in my pocket to eat out properly, so I joined up with my friend Little Lisa. In generosity of spirit and strength of mind she is no way little, but as we share a first name and I grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood where people of the same name are distinguished by the prefix “Big” or “Little,” Little Lisa she is. To be fair, LL is 7 inches shorter than me and a good 16 years younger.

Big of heart, though, believe me.

Once upon a time we worked together at NY1–she was often the only other broad in the studio when I was on set–but these days she’s a fancy lady producer at a major network and I’m, well–that’s a good question. What am I right now? Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy