For every project finished there are numerous others abandoned or left incomplete. The podcast below (one of the longest ever recorded for The House, and so broken up into three parts) took place this past September in the apartment of Travis Mackenzie Hoover, toward the end of the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. In addition to Travis and myself, the group consisted of critics Fernando F. Croce, Daniel Kasman, Adam Nayman, and Andrew Tracy (see bios at entry’s end for their venues; click on film titles above podcast embeds to view some of their work). The goal, as had been the case with a similar podcast conducted in 2007 for Zoom In Online, was to wrap up our individual TIFF experiences—to compare and contrast, to argue (sometimes heatedly), to state our cases, as any critic must, even if only to stand alone.
That we did (and do, as you’ll soon hear). Several of the movies discussed have seen release (Synecdoche, New York; The Wrestler; Che); others are sure to come to theaters soon enough (Lorna’s Silence; 35 rhums) or perhaps, to great misfortune, never (Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool and Agnès Varda’s The Beaches of Agnès—my personal favorites of the fest). To some extent, I’m happy the podcast was delayed until now as I think it offers something of a contrast to the glut of Top 10 lists currently crowding the ’Net. Whatever the value of year-end summations (I begrudge no one their efforts, but I’m currently in a place where the practice feels rote and seems in need of some extensive rethinking/overhaul), what’s often missing for me in these roundups is a quite literal sense of the writer’s voice—not just by itself, but in conversation (harmonized/discordant; to varying levels of intensity) with others. It’s difficult to wrangle words to one’s intonations, especially in list format; further, I think we’re often handicapped by an unspoken need to be definitive in print, whereas in-person interaction (which I believe to be a necessary component of a writer’s own process) allows us to be looser, more in-the-moment as we struggle to shape our perspectives.
Not that you’ll hear much struggle in the participants here. In more ways than one—as befits my tendency toward dizzying, harshly critical introspection—these gents shame me, raising the bar to such a degree in terms of verbal ability and widespread film knowledge that it demands I constantly rise above myself and my own handicaps (among them: my propensity to say “kind of” two or three times per thought). To those who would declare criticism a dead practice, I submit this collaborative effort as decisive evidence to the contrary. The form will continue, but it can only benefit from building a conversant community such as this, one where the only thing mutually agreed upon is a place to (temporarily) stop.
To Fernando, Travis, Daniel, Adam, Andrew and many more besides: you are my colleagues; you are my friends; you are my family.
Happy holidays. Keith Uhlich
Part One: Synecdoche, New York; Liverpool; Three Monkeys; “Rarefied Cinema”; Birdsong; Lorna’s Silence. (TRT: 24 minutes, 12 seconds)
Part Two: 35 rhums; Ozu/Denis; The Wrestler/JCVD: “Narratives of Redemption/Rehabilitation”; Che. (TRT: 27 minutes, 27 seconds)
Part Three: Wendy and Lucy; National Cinemas: Canada/Brazil; Plastic City; Disasters 1: Blindness, The Unspoken, Adam Resurrected, Good, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Burning Plain, Adoration; Burn After Reading; Disasters 2: Real Time; Canadian Cinema: “Shouting into an empty room”; Six Figures/Monkey Warfare; The Beaches of Agnès. (TRT: 57 minutes, 07 seconds)
Travis Mackenzie Hoover is a freelance writer based in Toronto.
Daniel Kasman is one of the founders of The Auteurs and runs the site d+kaz.
Keith Uhlich is editor of The House Next Door.