Continue Watching

Exploring how and why we watch. by Jane Schoenbrun

  • The 20 Best American Films of 2016

    Let’s start with a disclaimer about bias. I’m drawn to a certain type of film, which is why this list is going to look pretty different from the one you’ll find in, say, Entertainment Weekly. I don’t really look to the movies I consume for entertainment or diversion. I’m more drawn to emotional honesty. To work that comes straight from the heart and from the gut. I’m interested in movies that force me to challenge myself. That feel urgent and personal. That show me something new or shocking or unexpectedly truthful, that are enriching for the same reason they might…  Read more

    On Dec 19, 2016
    By on Dec 19, 2016 Columns
  • Entertaining Violence (Or, The Walking Dead and the Future of America)

    Warning: This post contains major spoilers for The Walking Dead and the future of America In case you’re behind on your DVR, allow me to catch you up on the much-talked about cliffhanger ending from last season’s Walking Dead finale. After a ton of build-up, the show finally introduced Negan, a well-known villain from the comic source material infamous for bludgeoning his victims to death with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. His weapon of choice. In the final moments of the finale, Negan overpowered the show’s main characters, lined them up in a circle, and wielded his iconic…  Read more

    On Dec 5, 2016
    By on Dec 5, 2016 Columns
  • All Movies are Political Movies. We Need to Do Better

    If this is showing up on your newsfeed there’s a pretty good chance that you’re an American filmmaker, a member of the American film industry, or just someone who loves art and film. No matter who you are, today is a day for therapy. For outrage. For disgust and shock and personal reflection. But for those of us in the film world, today should also be a day where we reacknowledge and recommit ourselves to an important truth: That every film is a political film. Moonlight is a political film. Manchester by the Sea is a political film. The Birth of…  Read more

    On Nov 9, 2016
    By on Nov 9, 2016 Columns
  • Can There be an “Indie Netflix”?

    If you happen to be a fan of either (1) the Chicago Cubs, or (2) subscription-based VOD streaming platforms, it must be a pretty exciting time to be alive. Last Tuesday saw the launch of FilmStruck, a new subscription-based streaming platform (or, “SVOD Platform,” a term coined by industry insiders who own nice hats). The goal of this platform? To cater to arthouse audiences underwhelmed by Netflix’s dwindling selection of classic films. With the combined muscle of TCM and beloved DVD imprint The Criterion Collection behind it, FilmStruck launched to a buzzing New York Times piece, copious social media fanfare,…  Read more

    On Nov 7, 2016
    By on Nov 7, 2016 Columns
  • Give Me Restrained Filmmaking, Right Now

    I recently had the pleasure of watching two of the very best American films of the year on the big screen: Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women and So Yong Kim’s Lovesong. I’d been meaning to catch Reichardt’s film for months but had managed to miss it consistently at festivals. The opportunity finally presented itself this past Wednesday. I had plans in Fort Greene that evening to watch the third presidential debate, a spectacle that I was almost positive would be deeply stressful and troubling. But I, like most Americans, couldn’t bear to look away. Anyway, I had a few hours to…  Read more

    On Oct 24, 2016
    By on Oct 24, 2016 Columns
  • Independent Film is a Meaningless, Outmoded Term, and We Need to Stop Saying It

    What does the term “independent film” mean to you? To me, it’s my profession. It’s the field I’ve always worked in. I try not to talk about this much but when I was young(er) I took a brief gig in reality TV. It took me two months to realize that I’d choose low pay and long hours any day if it meant I got to work on projects that I loved. To others, “independent film” is a genre. Back in the ’80s, when the term was first coming into popular use, “independent film” was a signifier of a certain type…  Read more

    On Oct 17, 2016
    By on Oct 17, 2016 Columns
  • We Tell Ourselves Franchises in Order to Live

    Last weekend I took a trip to the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 and paid seventeen bucks to see Blair Witch. Based on the reviews, I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to like it very much (spoiler alert: I was right). But still I felt compelled to hop the Q train and head into Manhattan to meet my friend at the multiplex. What brought me out there? Maybe it was the changing weather and its subliminal indication of Halloween’s approach. Maybe it was the faint hope that director Adam Wingard — whose previous work I’ve really dug — would elevate what…  Read more

    On Sep 26, 2016
    By on Sep 26, 2016 Columns
  • What Does Netflix’s Algorithm Want?

    Back in June, Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation Carlos A. Gomez-Uribe and Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt co-published a paper entitled, “The Netflix Recommender System: Algorithms, Business Value, and Innovation.” It’s a fascinating read, and if you care at all about the future of film as an artform, a fairly troubling one. With their 19-page paper, Gomez-Uribe and Hunt provide a rare peek under the hood of Netflix’s inner-workings and technological developments, and go on to discuss the company’s business priorities and philosophy. The basic takeaway? Netflix has built an insanely complex and powerful recommendation system. This sucker has algorithms…  Read more

    On Sep 12, 2016
    By on Sep 12, 2016 Columns
  • A History of the Fan Mutation, YouTube’s Strangest Art Movement

    There’s something comforting about TV show opening credit sequences. In the era of the binge watch, we don’t necessarily need them every single episode. (I mean, we all know what we’re about to watch, don’t we?) But a great credit sequence can serve as a palette cleanser. The cue that we’re about to see something familiar, something we trust. It’s almost Pavlovian. And few opening credit sequences are as comforting as The Simpsons. Sure, that show, which is about to enter its 28th season, is about two decades past its prime. But when we hear Danny Elfman’s theme music, when…  Read more

    On Aug 29, 2016
    By on Aug 29, 2016 Columns
  • The Filmmaker’s Guide to Emotional Validation

    Last week I released collective:unconscious, a feature film I’ve been working on for the past two years onto the internet. The project is a collaboration with five of my favorite American filmmakers, and it’s a pretty strange and unique thing. We decided early on in the process to give the film away for free because we wanted as many people as possible to see it. Shortly after we let the film loose, the views started to pile up. And with it, the “Social” tab on my Gmail was flooded with alerts that people were “liking” my video. And then that…  Read more

    On Aug 15, 2016
    By on Aug 15, 2016 Columns
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