“It Just Wasn’t Easy to Set Up a Movie About a Murdered Atheist”: Tommy O’Haver on The Most Hated Woman in America

Melissa Leo in The Most Hated Woman in America

The media dubbed her “the most hated woman in America,” and famously eccentric atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair wore that claim like a badge of honor. As played by Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo, O’Hair was an outspoken but noble mother who stood for her family’s First Ammendment rights in providing a voice to the voiceless. Protesting for basic civil rights with local African-American men and women and fighting back against the practice of prayer in public school, O’Hair fought very loudly against religious and anti-constitutional rhetoric beginning over fifty years ago. Her impact remains: the non-profit organization known as American Atheists, founded by O’Hair, is still in operation.  In spite of these accomplishments, O’Hair was not well loved. With her rise in popularity came hate…  Read more


Blow-Up, Being There and The Last Tycoon: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations


Two very different but equally essential classics find their way to Blu-ray and DVD this week courtesy of the Criterion Collection, which has issued exemplary special editions of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) and Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979). The Antonioni film, in which a fashion photographer finds evidence of a murder in one of his stills, heavily influenced later American political thrillers like The Conversation and Blow Out in spite of the fact that Blow-Up itself is less a mystery than an anthropological document of swinging ’60s London. It was Antonioni’s first film outside his home country after L’avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse and Red Desert made him an international art house superstar, and shooting in England seems to have both reenergized…  Read more


Spoiler Alert! How to Tell the Story Without Telling the Story

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals

(WARNING: There will be spoilers) When Charlie McDowell’s mysterious film The Discovery debuted at Sundance last January, its distributor, Netflix, premiered a teaser trailer along with it — a good strategy, considering the film’s intriguing premise (that science has proven the existence of an afterlife) and its abundance of plot twists. No spoilers, please! A beautiful piece of promotion for a dark sci-fi romance ostensibly about life after death but essentially about a person looking for his soul mate, the teaser uses Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely” for an 88-second music-driven montage (a song not used in the film but well-suited for the advertising). Its clever construction starts conventionally enough — the jangly tune accompanies shots of Jason Segel and Rooney Mara…  Read more


Watch: “Malick or Nature Doc?”

In his latest video essay, Jacob T. Swinney invites you to play a game: is the footage you’re looking at from a Terrence Malick film or a nature documentary?


Don’t Bring Your Business Card to Borscht

I missed my 6am flight on the last day of the Borscht Film Festival. I blame Moonlight. And Miami. It had been an insanely inspiring weekend of art, film and new friendships at the festival’s 10th year down in Miami. Borscht ran February 22-26, encompassing live performances, film screenings, art installations, parties on islands and even a viking funeral — which I, regretfully, missed. I’d been hearing about Borscht for years through a number of my friends in the film community and via co-founders Jillian Mayer and Lucas Levya’s visionary films/art. Over and over, I was told the fest was a sort of refuge for other artists trying to find their voice, their collaborators and most importantly, for people wanting…  Read more


Art and Commerce Are Stuck in An Abusive Relationship

Get Out

Is there such a thing as a moral or “best” way to finance a movie in this country? Should filmmakers and artists be allowed to earn a living without having to worry about making their work commercial? What and where is the line when “art” becomes “entertainment”? And when “entertainment” becomes pure “product”? With the Trump administration’s proposed gutting of federal funding for the arts, these are some of the questions that have been rattling around my mind lately. I find them more difficult than ever to untangle. Questions about the relationship between art and commerce are exceedingly complex, not to mention fairly taboo discussion topics in the film industry. They lead quickly to larger questions about ethics and morality, politics and…  Read more


Eight Shorts From SXSW 2017

Fry Day

As the 2017 edition of SXSW comes to a close, here’s a list of eight short films I saw that are worthy of your attention. There’s no clear throughline apparent here: documentary work investigating the infected water supply of the DC water crisis, midnight selections featuring mannequin heads that come to life to suck face, and miscellaneous narrative shorts that cover everything from the ending of a romantic relationship to a bond formed during an impending school shooting. Many will continue to screen on the festival circuit throughout the year, and some will be made readily available online before you know it. Use this as a guide to note which ones may work for you. DeKalb Elementary One of the year’s best…  Read more


SXSW 2017: Nanfu Wang’s I Am Another You and Jason Cortlund & Julia Halperin’s La Barracuda

I Am Another You

While resisting the urge to hyperbolically and lazily link any one film I see at this year’s SXSW to another, allow me to quickly note that Nanfu Wang’s I Am Another You (a world premiere in the Documentary Feature Competition section) and Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund’s La Barracuda (which world premiered in Narrative Feature Competition) are, at their core, about women voluntarily visiting a piece of America foreign to them (Florida and Texas, respectively) to reveal their bare selves in the process. Wang is from China, the character of Sinoloa is from England; both come to town with a purpose that may not always be clear, even to themselves. The two films couldn’t be any more different. Wang is a personal filmmaker who places herself at…  Read more



~29 Movies Shot on 35mm Released In 2016

This is my third time rounding up the previous year’s US theatrical releases shot in 35mm, and this year’s number is substantively lower than 2014 (39) and 2015 (~64). This seems like an anomaly, not a permanent trend: following the high-profile push by J.J. Abrams et…  Read more

Feb 22, 2017

Festivals & Events

Stranger in Paradise

True/False 2017 Critic’s Notebook 1: Resistance and Futility

This was my eighth (!) year attending the True/False Film Fest, and the first during which I wasn’t in a continuously 100% optimal mood — not the festival’s fault, attributable instead to the foul ambient fug emanating from the White House. I’ve written about my skepticism/aversion towards…  Read more

on Mar 8, 2017

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