Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Breathless (Godard) – A
2. Days of Heaven (Malick) – A
3. Overwhelm the Sky (Kremer) – B+
4. Topology of Sirens (Davies) – A-
5. Days of Heaven (Malick) – A
6. Don’t Look Back (Pennebaker) – A+
7. Halloween (Carpenter) – A-
8. The Howling (Dante) – B
9. Breathless (Godard) – A
10. Rear Window (Hitchcock) – A+


I wrote a capsule review of Jonathan Davies’ TOPOLOGY OF SIRENS for ahead of its U.S. Premiere tomorrow night at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. I will be conducting a post-screening Q&A with Davies at the Logan Theater.

Logan Theater – Saturday, 6:45pm; also available to rent virtually
TOPOLOGY OF SIRENS is a tantalizing mystery film in the vein of early Jacques Rivette that imagines contemporary Los Angeles as a kind of giant game-board. Much like how PARIS BELONGS TO US features the search for a missing tape of “revolutionary guitar music” as a narrative jumping-off point, so too does Jonathan Davies’ first movie use the discovery of mysterious micro-casette tapes inside of an antique hurdy gurdy as a catalyst for an existential detective story. I love the way TOPOLOGY OF SIRENS imbues physical objects—and the physical media that is rapidly disappearing from the world in the 21st century in particular—with a totemic significance that makes it feel incredibly modern. A lot of critics are going to liken this to the work of other filmmakers (a couple of mesmerizing scenes on a baseball field recall the ending of Antonioni’s BLOW-UP in particular) but the best point of comparison I can make is with Thomas Pynchon’s 2013 novel Bleeding Edge, which has a similarly haunting quality in how it “makes strange” the recent past by treating it as if it were ancient history. Featuring elegant cinematography that thankfully eschews the gritty, handheld aesthetic so prevalent in modern independent American cinema, and a minimalist drone score that blurs the line between music and atmospheric sound effects, this is an astonishingly confident debut feature. Director Jonathan Davies in person. (2021, 106 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]

ROY’S WORLD at the Chicago Critics Film Fest

I couldn’t be more excited that a film I produced, Rob Christopher’s documentary ROY’S WORLD: BARRY GIFFORD’S CHICAGO, is receiving its Illinois premiere at the Music Box Theatre as part of the great Chicago Critics Film Festival next month. The film is narrated by Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor and consists almost entirely of never-before-seen archival footage of Chicago in the mid-20th century and a couple of animated sequences. The film’s subject, master writer Barry Gifford (WILD AT HEART), will be there in person for a Q&A! You can buy tickets on the Music Box website here.

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. In the Cut* (Campion) – A-
2. In Front of Your Face* (Hong) – A-
3. Memoria* (Weerashethakul) – B+
4. Rear Window (Hitchcock) – A+
5. Saint Maud* (Glass) – C
6. Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin) – A-
7. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica) – A+
8. The Power of the Dog* (Campion) – A
9. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn* (Jade) – B-
10. Drive My Car* (Hamaguchi) – A

* – first-time watch

Microbudget Masterclass at the Lake County Film Fest

I’ll be giving a presentation on microbudget filmmaking at the Lake County Film Festival on Saturday, 11/13 at 1pm. I’ll be showing clips from all of my features (including a sneak peak of RELATIVE) and admission is FREE. Hope to see you there! More info on the Lake County Film Fest site.

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Bicycle Thieves (Kremer) – A+
2. Out of the Past (Tourneur) – A+
3. Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin) – A-
4. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Hamaguchi) – A
5. Devil in a Blue Dress (Franklin) – A-
6. Bergman Island (Hansen-Love) – C
7. Citizen Kane (Welles) – A+
8. The Many Saints of Newark* (Taylor) – D+
9. Citizen Kane (Welles) – A+
10. Citizen Kane (Welles) – A+


My favorite film of 2021, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY, opens for a theatrical run in NY and LA today and will screen at the Chicago International Film Festival (live and online) over the next week. I reviewed it for

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY(Japan)
AMC River East 21 – Monday, 8:15pm

HAPPY HOUR, the intimate epic that established Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s international reputation, achieves a novelistic density through the uncommonly detailed way it plumbs the emotional lives of its quartet of lead characters. WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY, the first of two 2021 releases by the director (followed by DRIVE MY CAR), resembles a short-story collection in how it depicts three narratively unrelated vignettes that are formally separated by their own chapter headings and credit sequences. Hamaguchi proves to be equally adept at the short-film format as he was with a 5-hour-plus run time: the mini romantic dramas that comprise WHEEL are gratifying to watch as self-contained episodes, but when one contemplates how they might be linked on a thematic level, the entire project attains a profound resonance (it wasn’t until the morning after my first viewing that I realized the magnitude of Hamaguchi’s deceptively modest approach). The first section, “Magic (Or Something Less Assuring),” begins with an extended Rohmerian dialogue between two female friends, one of whom regales the other about a “magical” date with a man she has fallen in love with, unaware that he is also her friend’s ex-lover. It ends with a chance encounter between all three characters, punctuated by a brief but daring fantasy sequence. The title of the second section, “Door Wide Open,” refers to a literature professor’s policy of avoiding scandal by always keeping his office door open when meeting with students. One day he receives an unexpected visitor, a woman who is attempting to ensnare him in a trap. Or is she? The final section, “Once Again,” is the best: two women who haven’t seen each other in 20 years meet providentially on a train-station escalator before spending the day together and eventually realizing that neither is whom the other had thought. Hamaguchi himself has said that “coincidence and imagination” are the movie’s main themes and, indeed, as the title indicates, each of the stories involves the intersection of the free will of the individual and the fickle nature of fate. But WHEEL is also about the inexorable pull of the past and how the characters’ regrets over roads not taken have keenly shaped who they are. This latter aspect is the key to understanding how a film so charming on the surface can also contain such a melancholy undertow and how characters with only a small amount of screen time can seem so fascinatingly complex and believable. Hamaguchi shows the psychological underpinnings of everyday human behavior in a manner rarely seen in the movies. He knows how to pierce your heart. (2021, 121 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. The Lady Eve (Sturges) – A+
2. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks) – A+
3. Malignant* (Wan) – B+
4. Cry Macho (Eastwood) – A-
5. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
6. Anne at 13,000 Ft.* (Radwanski) – B-
7. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
8. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
9. Cry Macho* (Eastwood) – A-
10. Contagion* (Soderbergh) – B

Talking CRY MACHO on the Split Picks podcast

It was my great pleasure to appear on Split Tooth Media’s Split Picks podcast to talk CRY MACHO with Bennett Glace. He loves it as much as I do and we talk about why the film’s critics are WRONG:

Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO

I reviewed Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO for Cinefile Chicago:

Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO (US)

The Logan Theatre and Various Multiplexes – Check Venue websites for showtimes

If RICHARD JEWELL (2019) was Clint Eastwood’s FRENZY—a dark, angry movie that revisited some of the director’s pet themes in a more disturbing fashion than ever before—then CRY MACHO is his FAMILY PLOT—a surprisingly sweet and gentle about-face that feels like a career summation while showing the old master has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Like MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) and GRAN TORINO (2008), CRY MACHO tells the story of an older man haunted by his past who finds redemption in becoming a surrogate father to a wounded younger person. The relationship unfolds on a picaresque road trip similar to the ones in BRONCO BILLY (1980), HONKYTONK MAN (1982) and THE MULE (2018), and Eastwood also throws in a cross-generational romance (a la BREEZY [1973] and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY [1995]) for good measure. Most of all, CRY MACHO is quintessentially Eastwoodian for how the filmmaker finds new ways to interrogate and subvert his own macho persona as an actor, even though (or perhaps precisely because) he was a physically frail 90-year-old at the time it was shot. Jonathan Rosenbaum once balked at the reception of Manoel de Oliveira’s CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS – THE ENIGMA (2007) because he was convinced that some fans of the then-98-year-old director valued the film only because Oliveira could be seen in it driving a car. There will no doubt be similar skepticism in some quarters towards the neo-western CRY MACHO for containing images of the now-ancient Eastwood riding a horse, punching someone in the face, and dancing with a much-younger señora (the wonderful Natalia Traven). But Eastwood’s performance here is genuinely and subtly moving: there’s a scene where his character, a retired rodeo star, cries while talking about mistakes he’s made, and it’s filmed in such a daringly offhanded manner, with the actor’s cowboy hat slung low over his eyes, that many viewers likely won’t even notice the single tear that streams down his face while he’s reminiscing. The low-key, no-fuss approach is characteristic of both the director and the movie as a whole. CRY MACHO features perhaps the most beautiful widescreen landscape shots that Eastwood has ever composed (with New Mexico credibly standing in for Mexico), even though, typical for a director famed for his visual economy, he refuses to linger on any of them for a second longer than necessary. A small masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the big screen. (2021, 104 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]

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