Slate Movie Club 2019 welcome article: what is cinema again?

In Slate’s annual Movie Club, film critic Dana Stevens emails other critics – this year Bilge Ebiri, Karen Han, and Alison Willmore – about the year in the cinema.

Dear Bilge, Karen and Alison,

As the second decade of the first century of the new millennium draws to a close – how’s that for a grand opening? – the season of lists, prizes and meaningful statements is upon us. But thankfully so is Movie Club, a place to share ideas both big and small (not to mention the jokes, memes, crazy theories and poems) about the current state and future horizons of the medium that we call cinema, which is… what else, now?

This question became freshly relevant, or at least ubiquitously boring, this fall due to the extremely silly Scorsese vs Superheroes hubbub. For weeks (if you were on Film Twitter, they were lived as years) the movie legend was berated by fanboys (and fanboy directors!) For correctly noting in an interview that the Marvel films are above all products. Scorsese and James Gunn have two very different jobs, as evidenced by Irish, a three-and-a-half-hour masterpiece that was in itself the year’s best argument for the value of theatrical viewing.

Although most viewers digest the film at home on Netflix by reasonable sized pieces, it is still clearly intended to be projected onto a screen and viewed with others. My screening that I remember most this year – I suspect Alison and Karen were both there, and I sat next to Bilge – was the New York Film Festival premiere of Irish, where a few hundred people lined up at 8 a.m. to sit down, laugh, ask questions, and hang out discussing the same movie. It was our Avengers: Endgame. And it’s because of movies like Irish as much as the blockbusters tentpole that the cinema remains at least in part a public act, even though this aspect of the medium is perpetually in danger and in need of protection, the white rhino of the cinematic experience.

I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the gasps and giggles at the theater because Parasite winding its way through all of our brains for the first time. And the sheer, shared duration of long and sometimes grueling films like Irish or that of Terrence Malick A hidden life– a movie I know Bilge loved, and which I hope he writes more about this week – is some of what I have left: both are passing time movies that demand endurance and patience on the part of the audience. But what about the new ways of viewing and sharing made possible by streaming and social networks? Watching a movie on your laptop with an open window for an ongoing social media comment degrading the viewing experience or opening up new possibilities within it? East manufacturing Marriage story memes just another way to hear those theatrical gasps and laughs, only on Twitter?

A general statement that I feel safe making is that it’s been a good year for big comebacks and big returns in form, even for filmmakers who were already doing well: Once upon a time … in Hollywood, Marriage story, and Irish are just three of the most prominent examples of long-established directors taking great swings from great heights and connecting, both with the material and with more audiences and critics than they ever had before. since a while. It was also a year when women making major Hollywood releases started to seem like a normal thing: There was Olivia Wilde with Booksmart, Lulu Wang with The farewell, Lorene Scafaria with scammers, Greta Gerwig with Little woman (and that’s without counting the co-directors of the big franchise films: Anna Boden with Captain marvel and Jennifer Lee with Frozen 2).

In fact, in a year when the body politic and the planet barely limped, the cinematic landscape felt oddly… healthy? Despite all the complaints from Martin Scorsese and others about the dominance of corporate franchises, it was even a relatively strong year for original stories, with films like We, Once upon a time … in Hollywood, Hustlers, and Rocket man box office cleaning.

On that note of unexpected optimism, I summon the Movie Club 2019 Not in the Mind of Jimmy Hoffa summoning Tony Pro to a meeting at Irish– you can wear shorts, and even be 10 minutes late, without me becoming ballistic – but with the expansive curiosity of Benoit Blanc, the brilliant detective Daniel Craig starred in Knives Out. I want to know your background, your motivations and your alibis; the secret joys that the movies have brought you this year and the moments of untruth that made you want to throw up like the heroine allergic to the lie of Ana de Armas in that movie.

Hold, I launch you first with a request: that you plead, to me and to the readers, for the film n ° 1 of your Top 10, that of Gaspar Noé Climax. I admit that I haven’t seen any Noah movie since the years 2002 Irreversible, the story of a rape told in reverse chronological order, which struck me as so brutal, nihilistic and homophobic in its content that I could not appreciate anything in its form that was worth it. be noticed. Ever since that movie, I’ve thought of Noah, perhaps wrongly, as a show-offy edgelord with a sadistic side. But 17 years is a long time to hold a grudge, and your description of Noah’s new “techno-musical” as “a hellish landscape you can sail into” piqued my curiosity – what more could you ask for, at this hellish moment history, that a film that makes the spectator want to dance? Please tell me not only why I should give Noah another chance on this one, but if there are any filmmakers you gave up as well, not as a conscious act of “canceling” , but just because you couldn’t stand what they were putting out anymore.

In the interest of getting our conversation started, I’ll also link to my top 10 of 2019 and list the headlines here, and ask all of you to do the same in your first few posts.

The maid
Honey country
Irish
little women
Once upon a time … in Hollywood
Parasite
Peterloo
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
We
Varda by Agnès

Thank you very much for being part of The Movie Club this year; you are three of my favorite critics, and I can’t wait to see what rabbit holes you knock me down.

—Dana

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