For those of you who haven’t clicked on the link on the right hand side of this page, Home is my first feature as a writer-director-editor. It’s a peculiar microbudget movie with 60 speaking parts, all set at a party in two floors of a Brooklyn brownstone (actually my own apartment in downtown Brooklyn). It plays March 2-8 at Two Boots Pioneer Theater, an underground venue that proudly bills itself as New York City’s smallest movie house. (To read the movie’s IMDb entry, click here.)
Home was shot in 2002 and 2003, edited and sound-mixed in 2004, and made its theatrical debut last year at Cinequest 15 in San Jose. It has been on the festival circuit since then (check the front page of Brooklyn Schoolyard for selected venues) and after this it will play March 17 and 19 at the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem North Carolina, and April 6-9 at the Syracuse International Film Festival. (For a 90-second trailer, click here).
I made the movie because I originally went to college to study filmmaking, got sidetracked into a long and satisfying career as a critic and reporter, but continued to think like a filmmaker whenever I watched movies or TV. My personal background explains why my criticism tends to be equally interested in form and content, often more the former than the latter. It also explains why Home is a elliptical movie, very realistic in certain respects and surreal in others, with kind of a hothouse atmosphere, a documentary approach to behavior, and a dry, admittedly strange sense of humor. The style is a mix of classical Hollywood compositions and camera moves and some fairly wild documentary stuff. The narrative blends scripted and improvised scenes, and the finale is open-ended and perhaps a bit ambiguous.
Home gave me a chance to visually express some of the aesthetic qualities I value as a moviegoer, which I guess makes it a continuation of criticism by other means. The movie also represents an admission that I am and have always been a filmmaker in addition to being a critic, and that I have no intention of choosing one pursuit at the expense of the other, and people on both sides of that line might as well get used to it. I am already in production on two short films that will be finished by the end of the year—both science fiction—and I’m just about done with a new feature script, an adaptation of a detective novel that was critically acclaimed in the United States and has acquired a cult following in France.
There does not seem to be any middleground with the critics. People who see the movie tend to either adore it and latch onto it and express a desire to see it again—they write me to ask for souvenir DVDs—or else it drives them crazy and they hate it. So far the reviews have run the gamut from rampant enthusiasm to “Don’t quit your day job,” with interpretations of my intent strewn throughout each critique. “An intriguing mix of vérité and fable, resulting in a film that is dreamy but doesn’t sacrifice any intimacy or edge,” said New York magazine. Filmmaking for the Poor said Home “…does not fit neatly into any one currently existing category of movies…I would classify it as an Experimental Romantic Drama.”
This spectrum of responses seems about right, considering the often extreme positions I take in my reviews. And all in all, I think there’s a certain karmic kick to the idea of criticizing a critic. To all the filmmakers whose work I’ve panned over the years: If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d like to see that son of a bitch do better,” well, here goes.
UPDATE: The New York Times is affectionately positive: “As dreams are interpreted, hearts are bruised and a loudmouth in a velour tracksuit gets undeservedly lucky, Home accumulates a blurry, on-the-fly atmosphere spiked with moments of unexpected sweetness.” The New York Post’s verdict is right there at the top of the story. For my money, it’s one of the great Post headlines of all time.
UPDATE: Green Cine Daily surveys the critical response to Home and says The House Next Door is a good place to hang out.
Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.
Oscars 2019: Who Will Win? Who Should Win? Our Final Predictions
No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them.
No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits. Across the last 24 days, Ed Gonzalez and I have mulled over the academy’s existential crisis and how it’s polluted this year’s Oscar race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again. We’re spent, and while we don’t know if we have it in us to do this next year, we just might give it another go if Oscar proves us wrong on Sunday in more than just one category.
Below are our final Oscar predictions. Want more? Click on the individual articles for our justifications and more, including who we think should win in all 24 categories.
Picture: Green Book
Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Screenplay: Green Book
Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Foreign Language: Roma
Documentary Feature: RBG
Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence
Animated Short: Weekends
Live Action Short: Skin
Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design: The Favourite
Cinematography: Cold War
Costume Design: The Favourite
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Song: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual Effects: First Man
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Picture
The industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again.
“I’m hyperventilating a little. If I fall over pick me up because I’ve got something to say,” deadpanned Frances McDormand upon winning her best actress Oscar last year. From her lips to Hollywood’s ears. No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits.
But first, as McDormand herself called for during her speech, “a moment of perspective.” A crop of articles have popped up over the last two weeks looking back at the brutal showdown between Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare In Love at the 1999 Academy Awards, when Harvey Weinstein was at the height of his nefarious powers. Every retrospective piece accepts as common wisdom that it was probably the most obnoxious awards season in history, one that indeed set the stage for every grinding assault we’ve paid witness to ever since. But did anyone two decades ago have to endure dozens of weekly Oscar podcasters and hundreds of underpaid web writers musing, “What do the Academy Awards want to be moving forward, exactly? Who should voters represent in this fractured media environment, exactly?” How much whiskey we can safely use to wash down our Lexapro, exactly?
Amid the fox-in-a-henhouse milieu of ceaseless moral outrage serving as this awards season’s backdrop, and amid the self-obsessed entertainers now wrestling with the idea that they now have to be “content providers,” all anyone seems concerned about is what an Oscar means in the future, and whether next year’s versions of Black Panther and Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody have a seat at the table. What everyone’s forgetting is what the Oscars have always been. In other words, the industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again, and Oscar’s clearly splintered voting blocs may become ground zero for a Make the Academy Great Again watershed.
In 1956, the Oscars took a turn toward small, quotidian, neo-realish movies, awarding Marty the top prize. The correction was swift and sure the following year, with a full slate of elephantine epics underlining the movie industry’s intimidation at the new threat of television. Moonlight’s shocking triumph two years ago was similarly answered by the safe, whimsical The Shape of Water, a choice that reaffirmed the academy’s commitment to politically innocuous liberalism in artistically conservative digs. Call us cynical, but we know which of the last couple go-arounds feels like the real academy. Which is why so many are banking on the formally dazzling humanism of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and so few on the vital, merciless fury of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.
And even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the academy’s new members, there’s that righteous, reactionary fervor in the air against those attempting to “cancel” Green Book. Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.
Will Win: Green Book
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.
Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman