En movimiento: The Season of Critical Inflation

My latest En movimiento column for the Spanish monthly Caiman Cuadernos de Cine, written for their January 2014 issue.

An afterthought: Since one of my recent favorites is Blue is the Warmest Color, I’ve been struck by the curious double standard that’s been operating lately within the critical community whereby “harder” pornography of various kinds involving sex and/or violence (including Spring Breakers, The Act of Killing, 12 Years a Slave, and Claire Denis’ Bastards) are getting applauded by many of the same critics who skewer the “softer” pornography of Blue is the Warmest Color. – J.R.


Am I turning into a 70-year-old grouch? Writing during the last weeks of 2013 — specifically a period of receiving screeners in the mail and rushing off to various catch-up screenings, a time when most of the ten-best lists are being compiled — I repeatedly have the sensation that many of my most sophisticated colleagues are inflating the value of several recent releases. And my problem isn’t coming up with ten films that I support but trying to figure out why so many of the high-profile favorites of others seem so overrated to me. All of these films have their virtues, but I still doubt that they can survive many of the exaggerated claims being made on their behalf.

Such as:

Gravity, hailed by Scott Foundas, J. Hoberman, and Kristin Thompson as a rare and groundbreaking fusion of Hollywood and experimental filmmaking, and not merely an extremely well-tooled amusement-park ride, is now being touted as a natural descendent of both Michael Snow’s La région centrale as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey, as if its metaphysical and philosophical dimensions were somehow comparable.   BLUE-JASMINE

Blue Jasmine, described by many reviewers and bloggers as some sort of artistic pinnacle, overlooking and/or implicitly ratifying Woody Allen’s customary caricatural scorn for his working-class origins, viewed here without particular insights and with none of the sexual ambivalences of his principal source, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, that made the class issues far more charged, juicy, and interesting. 12 Years a Slave –- an arthouse exploitation gift to masochistic guilty liberals hungry for history lessons, some of whom consider any treatment of American slavery by a black filmmaker to be an unprecedented event, thus overlooking Charles Burnett’s far superior Nightjohn.  Inside Llewyn Davis, a quieter and softer-than-usual serving by the Coen brothers of their usual petty torments doled out to their usual born losers, has been heralded by many as a pitch-perfect rendering of the American folk music scene of the early 1960s. But having actually attended the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village in 1961, the setting of this film’s opening scene, I can attest that even if some of the regulars there occasionally said “fuck,” they didn’t use the word in almost every sentence, as many do today, including the alleged “period” characters in this movie.