Roma, Benny Hill style: why film-makers hate Netflix’s fast-forward button

Yada yada – hurry it up, can’t you? … Al Pacino in The Irishman.

‘It is what it is,” says the union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) during a tense pow-wow in the forthcoming gangster drama The Irishman. To which the mildly perplexed crime boss Anthony Provenzano (Stephen Graham) replies: “What is it?”

The same question might well be asked of Netflix. On one hand, the streaming service has stumped up the readies to enable some of the world’s finest film-makers to work without cuts or compromises: not only Martin Scorsese, who couldn’t get the $160m needed to make The Irishman from anywhere else, but Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), David Michôd (The King) and Fernando Meirelles (The Two Popes). But then Netflix goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like: “Who has time to watch movies anyway?”Advertisement

A new facilit...

Interview: Pedro Almodóvar

Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar on the set of Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar, 2019)

In his feature in the September-October 2019 issue of Film Comment,  Michael Koresky writes: “Pedro Almodóvar leans into the pain with his new film Pain and Glory, his most autobiographical to date. Structurally, the genre is a no-brainer, perhaps, for a writer-director who has long preferred to tell stories centrifugally, spiraling out from a revelatory center rather than having finite beginnings and endings. Almodóvar’s movies of the 21st century especially, such as Bad Education (2004)—with which this film shares a strong kinship—Broken Embraces (2009), and The Skin I Live In (2011), have consistently moved away from linearity, as though coasting on the waves of memory...

Close Reading: Martin Eden

Images from Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello, 2019)

After saving Elena Orsini’s (Jessica Cressy) brother from a beating, Martin Eden (Luca Marinelli) is invited for lunch at the siblings’ posh family estate. That’s where he makes his first mistake. Though the fact that Martin is unafraid to throw a punch is appreciated, his brawny physicality becomes a liability with a bowl of pasta in front of him; elbows on the table, a nervous smile on his face, he eats with an animation that Elena’s mother notes with alarm. “Education is important, is it not?” she asks him pointedly. To which Martin responds, grabbing a piece of bread and sopping up the tomato sauce on his plate, “If education is the bread, then the sauce is poverty...

A House Divided

At the Cannes Film Festival, where Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite won the Palme d’Or, the director asked critics not to reveal anything about the film past the initial setup. One of the joys of going to festivals is that you can discover movies without noisy criticism getting in the way of your own first impression. So fair warning: if you want to replicate that experience, don’t read this piece until you’ve seen Parasite, because I’m going to give a great deal of the game away. It’s too extraordinary a film to dance around.

Late in the twisty, class-warfare family tragicomedy that is Parasite, Ki-taek, the head of a family of four that never had much and now has lost every bit of that, is lying on his back on the floor of a crowded shelter, next to his wife, Chung-sook; his son, ...

Present Tense: Audience vs. Alone

Present Tense is a column by Sheila O’Malley that reflects on the intersections of film, literature, art, and culture.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1976)

The first time I saw Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was years ago in a packed theater in Chicago. The film came weighted by its own reputation. I went in intimidated (I had found much of the writing about it to be incomprehensible, albeit intriguing). I have seen the film many times since, but when I think about the first time I remember one thing and one thing only: when Delphine Seyrig, busy in her cooking routine, dropped a fork, a woman a couple of rows away from me, who was also probably seeing it for the first time, gasped in terror...

Queer & Now & Then: 1944

In this biweekly column, Michael Koresky looks back through a century of cinema for traces of queerness, whether in plain sight or under the surface. Read the introductory essay.

Images from The Uninvited (Lewis Allen, 1944)

She appears from the dark or she comes in mist. She’s out of the past or here from lands unknown. She’s not of this earth anymore, yet she has a distinct effect on the material world. The attraction-repulsion she instills is born of sensuality as much as fear, and her threat almost always descends upon a living woman. Who is she, or who was she? These are the basic questions for a strange subgenre of horror movie that materialized in ’40s Hollywood.

The representation of women on screen was changing generally...

Interview: Jessica Sarah Rinland

Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another (Jessica Sarah Rinland, 2019)

In Jessica Sarah Rinland’s new film, Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another, an elephant’s tusk becomes an object of dramatic intrigue. Furthering the Argentinian-British artist-filmmaker’s interest in nature, zoology, and the art of preservation, this globetrotting work of creative nonfiction—Rinland’s first feature following a decade of formally adventurous short and medium-length films, gallery work, and photography—skillfully traces the production of a replica pachyderm tooth dating from the late 19th century...

Deep Focus: The Kill Team

Writer-director Dan Krauss, in his gutsy first feature, The Kill Team, puts a revelatory speech in the mouth of a gung-ho soldier named Rayburn (Adam Long) as he relaxes at an army base in Kandahar after gunning down a blameless Afghan teenager. Platoon-mate Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) knows that Rayburn is part of a plan to kill innocent civilians as a sociopathic sport, a rite of passage, and a statement that American troops can get away with anything. When Briggman asks Rayburn how he feels after his first kill, Rayburn’s answer serves as an oblique confession: Rayburn says his father once explained that when the Union Army executed spies, one member of the firing squad got a gun with an empty round, known as “the conscience round.“ We might think that helped to allay the rifleme...

The Suicide Squad Cast Unite in New Photo with Margot Robbie & Pete Davidson

James Gunn is getting to work on The Suicide Squad. The director just revealed that most of the characters featured in the highly anticipated project hail from the iconic 1980s comic run. In addition, he also shared a new photo of the cast, plus Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 star Pom Klementieff, after they all checked out a screening of Joker. It's easy to see that Gunn is eager to get to work and share what he has been up to with DC fans.

Abominable Dominates the Weekend Box Office with $20.8M Debut

Abominable was easily able to take the number one spot at the box office this weekend. The animated family movie took in $20.8 million domestically, which gave it a leg up on the holdover competition from last weekend. Director Jill Culton is the first woman to be credited as the main director and writer of an animated Hollywood studio project and she is definitely celebrating after the box office success over this past weekend. The movie was able to pick up an additional $10 million overseas, bringing the grand global total to $30.8 million.