Key [Film] Texts

Important texts that have contributed and continue to contribute to my development as a film lover and writer. Books, articles, quotes, essays, posts, and reviews. A growing list.

Books by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Jonathan Rosenbaum has influenced my writing and thinking about film more than any other critic, from his stint at The Chicago Reader, when I discovered him, to his books. I consider him the greatest living film critic writing in English, by a mile. His website, although strewn with 404s when he changes slugs without creating redirects, is essential reading for now and in the future.

For some reason, his newest book, Cinematic Encounters: Interviews and Dialogues 2, is not listed on that author page in the Amazon link.

All and Nothing [IRREVERSIBLE & AMEN.], Jonathan Rosenbaum

Opening hook:

Why link an arty exploitation picture about rape, murder, and revenge with a sober adaptation of Rolf Hochhuth’s The Deputy, a 1960s German play about the failure of the Vatican to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust? One reason is to point out a critical difference between them. In Irreversible Gaspar Noe elects to show us everything — two faces being smashed to bloody messes, the heroine being raped and beaten for an agonizing ten minutes — while in Amen (which played last week at the Music Box) Costa-Gavras shows his hero Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), a newly commissioned SS lieutenant with a conscience, watching the gassing of Jews through a peephole with other officers but refuses to show us any part of what Gerstein sees.
The difference here concerns more than just etiquette.

The Responsibilities of a Gay Film Critic, Robin Wood
Wood’s example encouraged me not only to come out as a gay critic in the pages of an independent culture magazine in Indianapolis in the mid 80s, something that just wasn’t done, but also spurred me on to make my own gay movie — Pictures of Maleness.

What’s Sex Got to Do With It? Jonathan Rosenbaum
Rosenbaum argues persuasively if not definitively that the phrase, gay movie, does a kind of violence to any movie called that. However, as long as gay men seek out certain movies using that phrase or a variation thereof and as long as MSM critics ignore or evaluate certain subgenres that appeal and speak to gay men (judgments that are at least partially political), I’m going to continue to write about gay movies. Also: You should definitely watch The Hours and Times, which I saw in Chicago because of Rosenbaum’s recommendation.

Books by Robin Wood
The most important of these books for me was Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan.

On Abjection, Jacques Rivette
translated by David Phelps with the assistance of Jeremi Szaniawski

A moral challenge made to cinephiles, never repeated really and never really answered.

The Cinema of Inadvertence
We bad-movie watchers have our own anticriteria, the sorts of badness we prefer.
By Phil Christman on The Hedgehog Review

The Male Glance, Lili Loofbourow, VQR Online
I hope the author won’t mind, but this adroit analysis of how art by, for, and about women gets dismissed and ignored could apply to films by, for, and about gay men — at least those films not anointed by the Euro-gringo cinephile establishment. In which case, it’s the straight male glance.

Joker: Sympathy Epic
Bright Lights Films Journal
A good antidote to the fanboy drooling on #FilmTwitter.

Key quote:

Consider if Taxi Driver opened with Travis getting mugged by a black man and having his taxi stolen, or if Lang thought that getting into Beckert’s head required that the girls he kills ridicule and demean him first so we could see his point. Now put that glance back in context: we can now pretend to explain “why” he’s racist, or “why” he kills. The moral reduction that results from getting this information would take the meaning out of the perspective; it would allow us to justify in a movie something that cannot be justified in life. This is how a movie like Joker can be about so much, and mean so little.

M.C. Meyers

Movies and Methods, Volume 1 and Volume 2
Edited by Bill Nichols
I carried these two beat-up, dog-eared volumes around with me for years from house to house in Chicago, along with all my Xeroxed articles from film classes, including the syllabi. I believe I gave them all away when I moved to Prague in 2003. I can’t say much of the criticism here has much to do with how I think about movies now. But these volumes were formative.

Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943-2000
One of my favorite books from my time as a film-studies undergrad. I wish there were more queer experimental films to explore.

Gays in Film
By Richard Dyer
From Jump Cut, no. 18, August 1978, pp. 15-16
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1978, 2005

Men’s pornography: gay vs. straight
by Tom Waugh
From Jump Cut, no. 30, March 1985, pp. 30-35
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1985, 2005

Dire straights: the indeterminacy of sexual identity in gay-for-pay pornography
by John Paul Stadler