As Marisa will mention in an upcoming podcast, last year felt like it was about seventeen goddamn years long, but that doesn’t mean we shied away from the challenge of combing through the approximately one million 2017 releases to determine which, of this year’s many fine offerings (finer than what the year had to offer in general, for sure) constituted the 20 best movies of the year. Regular SportsAlcohol.com Film Gang Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse each submitted individual Top 20 lists which were aggregated into a single Top 20 which featured relatively few movies with four-for-four list support (about 25%, I believe) but plenty of movies that got two or three of us way on board (unlike past years, no single-vote wonders made the list). Now that the mechanics are out of the way, let’s get to the movies themselves. A podcast, as always, will follow.
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have collaborated on three movies, and this fall they’re both back with their own solo movies: Gerwig’s Lady Bird, which is expanding into more theaters this Thanksgiving weekend, and Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), which is available to all Netflix subscribers. Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse watched both movies (as well as plenty of past work from both filmmakers) and then got together to discuss how they function together, how they function apart, and what we think of their new projects. Learn all about our thoughts on Gerwig behind the camera in various capacities, who loved and who hated Baumbach’s semi-lost movie Highball, the age dynamics of While We’re Young, what we thought of Nights and Weekends, the Gerwig/Joe Swanberg movie Jesse made everyone watch before recording, how Baumbach fits with Adam Sandler (who stars in Meyerowitz), and whether what used to be written off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life.
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Twenty years on, and I’m still having trouble getting a bead on Todd Solondz. Wiener-Dog is not exactly a twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Welcome to the Dollhouse to accompany this weekend’s twenty-years-later sequel to 1996’s Independence Day. Yet briefly, it totally is. One quarter of the movie’s dog-connected anthology follows Dawn Wiener, the awkward twelve-year-old played by Heather Matarazzo in Dollhouse, as a thirtysomething woman played by Greta Gerwig.
Close followers of Solondz’s work will not a discrepancy: We were told at the outset of his film Palindromes that Wiener gained a bunch of weight and killed herself. It was a non-grace note in a movie that wasn’t even about Dawn Wiener, but did have its main character (her cousin) played by eight different performers. Since that movie, he made one called Life During Wartime that is a direct sequel to the movie Happiness, except with every single character recast. In Dark Horse, Selma Blair quietly reprises a character she played in Storytelling who no longer looks or acts much like she did in the earlier film. The title of the Dawn-resurrecting Wiener-Dog is also the cruel nickname the character was given at school in Dollhouse, but here actually refers to an actual wiener-dog, who scampers through a series of owners, including Dawn Wiener.
So, again I ask: What the hell is going on with Todd Solondz? Does he think of his filmography as an ongoing, mutating art project, where recasting characters throws them into ever more fascinating contexts? Or do a lot of actors not want to work with him again? Does he compulsively revisit aspects of Dollhouse to tweak expectations about how his movies will compare to his still-biggest success? Or can he not leave well enough alone? And am I being a nerdy pedant for finding it kind of annoying, for not ginning up the interest to see Life During Wartime because I thought Happiness was great and had no desire to see a different rep company inhabit and sequelize those roles?
Continue reading WIENER-DOG inspires the bold question: Does Todd Solondz hate us?
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At a recent double-feature at the IFC Center, Greta Gerwig, who was there to present her new film Mistress America, mentioned the idea of the “dangerous woman” in cinema as one of the inspirations for the script, co-written with director Noah Baumbach. I was intrigued, not least because the two ’80s films she highlighted, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (which she screened alongside Mistress America) and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, happen to be personal favorites of mine – though I’d never thought to put them together in that way. In the weeks following I kept turning the phrase over in my mind, trying to think of modern examples of the trope outside the action and horror genres and coming up blank. Was the dangerous woman a relic of its time? Or has our idea of a feminine threat shifted to something a little less overt but more idiosyncratic? In these third wave, MRA-plagued days, it seems worth dissecting.
Continue reading “You’re a Funny Girl”: Greta Gerwig, Mistress America, and Dangerous Women