Friday, April 28, 2017

My Interview With Kitty Green, Director of 'Casting JonBenet'

At Sundance, I flipped for Casting JonBenet, a documentary that interviews people in the Boulder area who responded to an open casting call for a JonBenet Ramsey feature. But director Kitty Green was actually more interested in talking to these people about their feelings on the case, and the movie shows her subjects revealing much about themselves. For MEL, Green and I discuss why the movie was so therapeutic for its subjects, the strangeness of beauty pageants, and why everybody seems so harsh on JonBenet's mother Patsy. Check it out here.

Madonna - "What It Feels Like for a Girl"

"What It Feels Like for a Girl" was the third single off Madonna's 2000 album Music. The first two, "Music" and "Don't Tell Me," went to No. 1 and No. 4., respectively. This track didn't even crack the Top 20. Seventeen years later, I still don't know why.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

'How to Be a Latin Lover' Review

How to Be a Latin Lover is the feature directorial debut of Ken Marino, who (as someone will no doubt tell you) was really funny on Party Down. Latin Lover is not very funny: It stars Eugenio Derbez as an aging lothario who gets dumped by his rich wife and must learn to fend for himself. (Salma Hayek plays his down-to-earth sister who reluctantly lets him crash at her place.) Neither a raucous comedy nor a satisfyingly sappy family film, Latin Lover didn't do much for me at all. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In Praise of 'Rachel Getting Married'

For MEL, I wrote about a Jonathan Demme movie that didn't get as much ink today as some of his acknowledged masterpieces. That would be Rachel Getting Married, which helped solidify Anne Hathaway's emergence as a serious actress. It's also another example of a film full of Demme's compassionate view of people. You can read my appreciation here.

(P.S. If you need more Demme recommendations, I contributed to Rolling Stone's overview of his all-time greats.)

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Saying Goodbye to Jonathan Demme

I was very pleased to be asked to appear on Press Play to talk about Jonathan Demme's legacy. I did my best to talk about such a varied, meaningful career. You can hear the segment here.

Remembering Jonathan Demme, the King of the Concert Film

Jonathan Demme passed away today at the age of 73. For Rolling Stone, I focused on a crucial aspect of his career: his concert films. Of course, that means a lot of love is shown to Stop Making Sense, but I also talk about his Neil Young movies and Justin Timberlake+ the Tennessee Kids. It's an incredible legacy, and I try to do it justice here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Free Fire,' 'Network' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

The 65th episode of the podcast finds us debating Free Fire, a movie that crashed and burned at the box office this past weekend. But I particularly liked our conversations in the Reboot section. Much to my surprise, we both have similar reservations about the Oscar-winning, much-beloved Network. And The Royal Tenenbaums gave us a chance to revisit our ongoing discussion about Wes Anderson. Lots of goodness in this episode: Take a listen.

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Review

Summer movie season begins in fine fashion with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Though not without its issues -- I'm more convinced that Chris Pratt just isn't a major Hollywood star -- I found it very fun and surprisingly emotional. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tribeca 2017: 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson' Review

Marsha P. Johnson died around Fourth of July 1992. The police ruled it a suicide, but her friends suspected she was murdered. Decades later, an advocate tries to get the case reopened. That's the setup for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a documentary that doesn't necessarily uncover the truth but does have much to say about the transgender community and the many hardships it faces. This is sobering stuff nicely rendered, as I say in my Screen International review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stephin Merritt, '50 Song Memoir' and the Art of "Personal" Songs

For MEL, I wanted to write about 50 Song Memoir, the superb new album from the Magnetic Fields. I started thinking about how Magnetic Fields leader Stephin Merritt inadvertently joined a recent trend of indie artists who are writing about themselves in intensely personal ways. Merritt, who abhors autobiographical lyrics, decided to write a song per year of his life for 50 Song Memoir -- and to draw from his real-life experiences for once. Along the way, he has created a new way of thinking about "personal" songs. You can read my piece here.

Stevie Wonder - "Sir Duke"

My wife and I got married 11 years ago tomorrow. She loves this song, and I love it more now because it makes me think of her loving it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

'Free Fire' Review

Pew! Pew! Pew! Free Fire isn't exactly nonstop gunplay, but there is a lot of shooting in this action-comedy-thriller about an arms deal that goes wrong. I've seen the movie twice now, and both times I've appreciated the exercise without necessarily caring all that much about what happens. My review is up at The New Republic.