31 January 2023

At the movies: Infinity Pool.

 New Cronenberg action! Absolutely worth checking out.

The 2023 Jim Ridley Memorial Film Poll

 The 2023 Jim Ridley Memorial Film Poll is one of the biggest things I coordinate in the year, and I'm always pleased to present the results. We cover a lot of ground here, with critics, producers, exhibitors, craftspeople, performers, and interesting folks the world over contributing. 

13 January 2023

Mulholland Drive introduction.

Hey there. So, I had a bunch of people who attended my Mulholland Drive mini-lecture/introduction this past weekend ask if I could publish my remarks. So here they are. This isn't a transcription, but rather the printed-out thing I used to work from. If you dig this, let me know, and I'll start publishing more of them.


I’m ecstatic to be introducing this film as part of the Sight and Sound Top Ten series, because I love the ways that certain films don’t allow themselves to be tied to any one genre or mode of viewing. David Lynch excels in the living legend auteur and midnight movie master modes, and we’re happy to show his work in both capacities here. Side note: those of you’ve who’ve recently seen Jeanne Dielman and want to get a feel for an equally amazing but very different facet of Chantal Akerman, I urge you to start an eMail and social media campaign to show her 1986 musical Golden Eighties, because it is awesome.

2001 is a transcendent object and also a theme park ride for people having hallucinogenic experiences for over fifty years now. Please don’t watch Mulholland Drive if you are currently having a psychedelic experience, because this is a film that defines a subgenre that I like to call “Films That Make You Come To Terms With The Absolute Moral Truth Of Yourself.” Because everybody wants to see the Betty in themselves, being careful to protect the Rita that skulks around the edges. We ache for Diane even as we are volleyed between two walls, one of relating, one of recoiling. And nobody wants to acknowledge the Camila within. And the sad truth of being alive right now is that we’re all all four of them. It’s like in The Black Hole, where Dr. Reinhardt is both a visionary celestial being transcending into new worlds while also being imprisoned in the burning shell of a robot for all eternity. We are all bridging multiple modes of existence at all times. And between this and I Heart Huckabees, Naomi Watts is the finest incarnation of millennium tension, a bruised butterfly with steel and silence weaponized against this world.

Mulholland Drive is about movies and what they and the process by which they are made mean to each person who watches it, creating a hyperspecific engagement with the viewer regardless of who all is around them at any given time. Eraserhead does this, the forthcoming Skinamarink does this as well. And we watch Mulholland Drive as an experience simultaneously internal and external, Subjective and objective. This is the kind of film that makes you have to take a day off work and figure out who you are. It’s a DreamWork that uses dreams as a sieve; we are Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski in the audience at the Club Silencio, we are the witness to the trials of a soul like Anubis weighing hearts, and we are ourselves, becoming part of this strange excursion that understands why we’re seeking out this ritual, this shared experience of pulling together and blowing apart.

David Lynch won the Best Director award at Cannes for this magical chimera, and that is 100% the correct word to use: made as the pilot for a tv series to follow the phenomenon of Twin Peaks and the highways and byways of Hotel Room and On The Air. Made for ABC, rejected, and left to drift until dramatically (in both senses of the word) reconceived as a feature film; it is a mystery that becomes a ritual, a Hollywood phoenix unmaking itself and then rebirthing itself before our eyes. This is Lynch’s movie about movies- his Singin’ In The Rain, his , his Sunset Boulevard, and what he’s telling us is simultaneously an indictment of the entire system by which we visualize dreams and manufacture our collective memory as well as craft a terrifying film about the pull of the very land itself. Until someone makes a film of Clive Barker’s Coldheart Canyon, this is a primary source nightmare of William S. Burroughs’ old and dirty American evil, and somehow by exporting it we’ve fixed the eyes of the world on this particular place in the Western United States where dreams feed on the lives and ideals of countless naïve coulda beens. Billy Ray Cyrus has said that his time on this film brought evil into his life and set young Miley on the path to becoming Hannah Montana, so again, respect to David Lynch. To put it another way, as far as cinema as a transformative conduit goes, this is like the exact opposite of Spirit of The Beehive.

Ann Miller in this film is semiotics. Rena Riffel, in this film, is also semiotics. And because this is a Jason Shawhan intro, I’m gonna recommend Riffel’s film Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven, which Brundleflys Verhoeven’s original with much of this film, wherein you’ll see her as a disposable tragic accessory to the hitmen and lowlifes proliferating around the hanging resolution that haunts this whole endeavor. Rena Riffel is the bridge between David Lynch and Paul Verhoeven, and she must be protected.

We’re in the middle of Lynch’s psychogenic fugue trilogy here, and all you need to know about that is that Lost Highway is pure möbius strip horror, an unending cycle of human weakness and depravity, this film is about how inspiration and hope allow us to break that cycle, simultaneously triumphantly and tragically, multiple experiences in a single timespace, and Inland Empire demonstrates that the entire process can be transcended using the very building blocks of story to make the stairs we ascend to a different kind of being.

I used to say that the first time I saw this film, I didn’t get it. Early October, 2001, having returned to New York for the first time since 9/11 happened less than a month before, sitting with performance artist and social worker Jeff Baker in what’s now the Regal Union Square, sharing a 40 we’d snuck in because like I said, less than a month after 9/11 and emotions demanded such an approach, and it just didn’t click for me. Fortunately, the review I wrote, to that effect, doesn’t even exist online anymore since Gannett sent all actual local entertainment writing to go live on a farm somewhere. It is one of four reviews that I genuinely regret, but it only exists in my head anymore. Judge. Defendant. Snarky YouTube Commenter. “It’s me; I’m the problem, it’s me.” Thankfully, time helps us to evolve. And this film is more than what it was, growing moreso with each subsequent viewing.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we are totally justified in demanding more from the movies we experience than what we are usually offered. But here’s the wide awake truth: the reason why the films in this Sight and Sound Top Ten series, and especially why David Lynch’s films resonate in the minds who live, breathe, and think cinema, is because these films are big, complex meals that nurture the weird parts of the brain and toss some pop rocks into the electrified goo we call consciousness. The rest is Silencio. And that means turn your phones off or Billy Ray Cyrus will punch you in the face. Thank you for coming, and enjoy the show.

Hey there y'all- something to remember.

 This is the Primal Stream archive, which I've been adding to since May 2020. There's all sorts of weirdness herein, definitely worth a look-see.

At the movies: Skinamarink.



An Interview with Roxanne Benjamin!


It's always a treat to talk to Roxanne Benjamin.

At the movies: M3gan.

 M3gan likes to party.

2022 Best ofs: Films!

 The Best of 2022 in films.

2022 Best Ofs: Physical Media.

 The Very Best of Physical Media for 2022.

Some thoughts on Avatar: The Way of Water.

 I got real in-depth about the 3D (good) and HFR (bad) of the new Jim Cameron joint.


At the movies: All The Beauty And The Bloodshed.


One of the best things I've seen all year.

At the movies: Violent Night and Christmas Bloody Christmas.

David Harbour showing the groceries versus actual Murderbot Santa.

At the movies: Strange World.

 Disney's doing something interesting, and the general public couldn't care less, which is very sad.

Also, Jaboukie Young-White is the queer hero of a Disney movie, and that's awesome.

At the movies: Glass Onion - A Knives Out Mystery


Knives Out 2, A Cruel and Unjust World 0.

At the movies: Bones And All


YA cannibal artistry from Luca Gudagnino. And good news, he's putting together his own repertory crew. Like the Compass Point All Stars, but for art cinema.

A discussion about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

 I was able to have an in-depth discussion about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever with my friend and colleague Sheronica Hayes.

Festival Update: NYFF and NF

 An in-depth dive into the 2022 New York Film Festival and NewFest, NYC's preeminent LGBTQIA+ film festival.

Festival Update: BHFF and KHFF

An essential look at upcoming horror and genre films from the 2022 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and Knoxville Horror Film Festivals.