Screening Room: ‘Paterson’

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One of the most surprising and rewarding movie treats of 2016 is Jim Jarmusch’s quirky yet heartfelt Paterson, about a poetry-writing bus driver in New Jersey. It reminds you not just how great Jarmusch can be but renews your faith in a particular brand of American independent filmmaking.

Paterson is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Proudly reinforcing the at-times under-siege notion that there is great, grasping life yet in American filmmaking, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is a simple story told with power, complexity and vision. Like many of the Frank O’Hara or William Carlos Williams poems that the film’s namesake protagonist (Adam Driver) reads and re-reads, the film is a poignant portrait of the mundane, a singing symphony of the everyday. It’s also a comedy, a romance, a paean to American post-industrial resilience, and a sublimely enjoyable work of art about a bus driver who writes poems that he doesn’t seem to care if anybody ever reads. There’s a lot here, folded like tightly coiled wires under the seemingly placid surface…

Here’s the trailer.

Reading for 2017

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Screening Room: ‘I, Daniel Blake’

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In Ken Loach’s searing new drama, an out-of-work carpenter fights to keep his humanity and a shred of dignity after being thrown into the Kafkaesque world of the UK’s social services bureaucracy.

I, Daniel Blake is playing now in limited release and is worth seeking out. My review is at PopMatters:

In many ways, I, Daniel Blake is as shamelessly manipulative as the most reductive romantic comedy or melodrama. Daniel might be the single most decent and loveable human being to grace a movie screen during the whole of 2016. At his side is a similarly decent single mother whose tearful travails are the stuff of a 19th-century immigrant’s saga. Together they contend with petty bureaucrats who never miss an opportunity to let their rulebooks and prickly egos keep them from doing their jobs. It’s David versus Goliath, only David doesn’t use a slingshot because he’s just too nice a bloke…

Here is the trailer.

Writer’s Desk: Type, Just Type

typewriter1For the last bit of writing advice in the year 2016, when many of us are thinking of nearly anything else than getting back to the keyboard, here’s something simple.

Famous editor Robert Gottlieb—who nurtured books by authors ranging from Robert Caro to John Le Carre and Toni Morrison—finally got around to writing his own book this year. It took some doing:

In moments of despair, when he felt incapable of setting down words, Mr. Gottlieb took his own advice, which he has doled out to countless blocked authors over the decades: Don’t write, type.

With that as your guiding principle, you’ll never be blocked again.

Remember, you can always edit later.

Screening Room: ‘Silence’

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A spiritual epic of the kind he hasn’t tried since Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese’s Silence is playing now in limited release and should be expanding nationwide soon. My review is at PopMatters:

…with his long-gestating adaptation of Shūsaku Endō‘s 1966 novel Silence, Scorsese returns to a scenario where souls are lost and seeking answers. Set in 17th-century Japan, a world distant from his usual contemporary American settings, the movie presents characters who willingly undertake punishments as brutal as anything experienced by the great martyrs of his early work, from Jake LaMotta to Jesus Christ…

Here’s the trailer.

Weekend Reading: December 23, 2016

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