A new poem of mine to share.
Friday, March 24, 2023
Thursday, March 16, 2023
My review of Inside with Willem Dafoe is now on Film-Forward.
Mixed on this one but intriguing nevertheless.
Friday, March 10, 2023
the 2022 jdb awards!
Happy Oscar weekend! Here goes my personal awards for 2022 film season.
"Benediction is an expansive movie of loss, isolation, and horror; it’s an energizing and inspiring movie about the vanity of existence itself. The physical design of the film—its décor, its costumes, its settings—coalesces with the actors’ diction and gestures, as well as with the historical characters in Sassoon’s circle who populate the action, and with the memory of love and the exaltation of art. The film brings the past to life with a vividness and an immediacy that seem wrenched from [Terence] Davies’s very soul." - Richard Brody
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS
Terence Davies, BENEDICTION
"None of us can find redemption in other people or in other things. You have to find it yourself. At the end of his [Sassoon's] life, I think he was actually quite unfulfilled. That touched me enormously. All my films are about outsiders because I’m an outsider. I listened to everything because I’m the youngest of 10. I wasn’t aware of it at first, but as I got older I realized I’m not a participant in life. I observe it. And when you’re an outsider, you’re usually ignored." -Davies
Todd Field, TÁR
Jerzy Skolimowski, EO
Steven Spielberg, THE FABELMANS
Charlotte Wells, AFTERSUN
Paul Mescal, AFTERSUN
"I think he’s sitting in these feelings, and deeply confused and upset by why he’s not able to enjoy himself, or because everything else on paper is good. He’s with the person that he loves most in the world and he should be happier than he is, and that’s devastating." -Mescal
Colin Farrell, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Eden Dambrine, CLOSE
Caleb Landry Jones, NITRAM
Jack Lowden, BENEDICTION
Cate Blanchett, TÁR
"When I read it, I was so daunted by the ask of it — not just what was necessary to play the character, but also the depth of questioning in the screenplay and my relationship to it, which kept shifting depending on which scene we were shooting or which relationship we were focused on that day. When the cast started to come together, Nina Hoss elevated it yet again. Then Hildur Guðnadóttir got involved to do the music, and I thought it doesn’t get much better than this. My job was not just to rise to the occasion of the screenplay but the quality of the people I was working alongside." -Blanchett
Henriette Confurius, THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER
Frankie Corio, AFTERSUN
Mia Goth, PEARL / X
Michelle Yeoh, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
Barry Keoghan, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
"I'm always looking for, what's the kind of... what is it that we're trying to do that we can get across, that is the most... makes the audience relates so much. Is it being raw? Is it being real? Is it being vulnerable? What is it? I'm trying to figure that out. Is it the behaving part? I'm always trying to figure that out. That's the beauty of it as well, is I'm always trying to learn from the craft and what it is that we do. How can we take it another level up? So I'm always watching. I'm always watching." -Keoghan
Johnny Flynn, THE OUTFIT
Brendan Gleeson, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Brian Tyree Henry, CAUSEWAY
Ke Huy Quan, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
Judy Davis, NITRAM
"No one who sees Nitram will forget the way Davis’s defensive face and posture finally dissolve into a rare kind of tender bewilderment and love that has been so beaten down so many times but still somehow exists. In real life, the woman she is playing in Nitram has retreated into denial, because there comes a point for any human being when pressure becomes so intense that it can no longer be endured. In the last shot of Mum, she sits stiffly outside her home, cigarette in hand, her face unreadable in profile but likely doing minute calculations underneath." -Dan Callahan
Nina Hoss, TÁR
Dakota Johnson, CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH
Janelle Monáe, GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
Brittany Snow, X
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
"I think that we all really slipped into this family dynamic quite seamlessly, and chemistry is very real, and I think it’s just this sort of unspeakable magic that you can’t quite know why." -Stephanie Hsu
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
Todd Field, TÁR
Terence Davies, BENEDICTION
Tony Kushner & Steven Spielberg, THE FABELMANS
Martin McDonagh, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Ramon Zürcher & Silvan Zürcher, THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER
Xavier Giannoli & Jacques Fieschi, LOST ILLUSIONS
Mathieu Amalric, HOLD ME TIGHT
Claire Denis, Léa Mysius, & Andrew Litvack, STARS AT NOON
Robert Eggers & Sjón, THE NORTHMAN
Rian Johnson, GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY
LINGUI, THE SACRED BONDS
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
ALL THAT BREATHES
A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING
Ben Bernhard, Riju Das, & Saumyananda Sahi, ALL THAT BREATHES
Simone D'Arcangelo, THE TALE OF KING CRAB
Michał Dymek, EO
Ksusha Greenfield, A WOUNDED FAWN
Frédéric Noirhomme, PLAYGROUND
François Gédigier, HOLD ME TIGHT
Agnieszka Glińska, EO
Blair McClendon, AFTERSUN
Brett Morgen, MOONAGE DAYDREAM
Paul Rogers, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
Howard Shore, CRIMES OF THE FUTURE
Michael Giacchino, THE BATMAN
Paweł Mykietyn, EO
Tindersticks, STARS AT NOON
Dan Wool, MAD GOD
“Stars At Noon,” STARS AT NOON
“Hold My Hand,” TOP GUN: MAVERICK
“Keep Rising,” THE WOMAN KING
“Lift Me Up,” BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
“New Body Rhumba,” WHITE NOISE
Art Direction / Production Design
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
Catherine Martin, ELVIS
Jenny Beavan, MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS
Ruth E. Carter, BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
Pierre-Jean Laroque, LOST ILLUSIONS
Gersha Phillips, THE WOMAN KING
Make-Up & Hair
CRIMES OF THE FUTURE
THE WOMAN KING
YOU WON’T BE ALONE
THE DREAM AND THE RADIO
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
A look back at last year's winners & nominees. The Worst Person in the World won Picture, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, and International Film.
Thursday, March 9, 2023
My review of the New Zealand-set queer drama Punch up at Film-Forward.
jeffery berg's top 10 films of 2022
2022 was a year of maximalist movies about spectacle (Elvis, Avatar: The Way of Water and Babylon) and extravagant movies about the continuing widening divide in class and social stratification (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Barbarian, Triangle of Sadness, The Menu and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery).
The year offered films of memory pieces, childhood traumas, composers, artists and writers, projectile vomiting, whales and donkeys. In the year when Roe vs. Wade decsion was overturned by the Supreme Court, many films about abortion happened to come out: Call Jane and Tbe Janes, Happening, and Lingui, The Sacred Bonds. Environmental concerns surfaced in The Dam, EO, All That Breathes, The House, The Territory and Wildcat.
Even if they weren't financial successes, numerous movies about movies emerged (Babylon, The Fabelmans, Pearl, X, Last Film Show, Empire of Light). Most were set in the past, and wistful reminders of technological changes: the demise of the projectionist and the shifting away for many from the theatrical experience.
Here goes my Top 10 films of 2022 with notables as well!
Vividly filmed and performed Chad-set drama focusing upon a mother and her daughter's pregnancy and the patriarchal society that thwarts them at every turn.
An incredible use of split screen of an ailing elderly couple (played very well by Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun) in a drab, over-stuffed flat in France, directed with a sense of dread, horror and empathy by Gaspar Noé.
Two 13-year old friends gradually drift apart in this heartbreaking drama. The explorations into masculinity are deftly handled by filmmaker Lukas Dhont.
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
Breathtaking documentary of Nan Goldin's life and also her fight against the opioid crisis, zeroing in on the Sackler family. The archival footage and imagery of Goldin's astonishing work and films of Goldin's contemporaries are so beautifully presented.
Balzac's vision is still biting all these year's later in this lush, brisk, well-acted and assembled adaptation.
An incredible film of animal pathos, with Director Jerzy Skolimowski moving in close to the experience of a roaming donkey in the fickle and hostile world of humankind.
Like Barry Jenkins's Moonlight, Aftersun strikes with a cumulative power. A memory piece, sometimes light-to-the-touch, and sometimes agonizing. Director Charlotte Wells's work shines admirably in her first feature-length.
I was so pleasantly surprised by Spielberg's cinematic semi-memoir--it was much funnier and adroit than I expected, and the cast is wonderful. Outside of the "awards race," it's a lovely coming-of-age film that doesn't shy away from the perspectives of being an artist, privilege and gnawing self-doubt.
The most memorable film-going experience of the year at New York Film Festival, and then the movie grew in estimation after re-watches. A vigorous, full-bodied character study from Todd Field's acid tongue script and brilliant direction.
A gripping reimagining of the poet Siegfried Sassoon's life in the aftermath of World War I and into his later years. I went back to some of Terence Davies' previous work immediately after watching this stirring film (biting, funny, moving); he is one of our more unsung auterus with an incredibly rich and daring filmography.
Other 2022 films of note in rough order of preference:
Pearl / X, Emily the Criminal, The Woman King, A Night of Knowing Nothing, Top Gun: Maverick, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Northman, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Descendant, The Girl and the Spider, Barbarian, The Banshees of Inisherin, Saint Omer, Nope, All That Breathes, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Causeway, Stars At Noon, Nitram, Playground, The Cathedral, Empire of Light, Hit the Road, To Leslie, Sr., Argentina, 1985, In Front of Your Face, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Wildcat, Navalny, Devotion, Hold Me Tight, The Box, Bitterbrush, The Territory, A Love Song, Bones and All, Till, The Dam, Fire of Love, Petite Maman, The Outfit, Gagarine, The Eternal Daughter, Last Film Show, The Janes, Moonage Daydream, Clara Sola, Our Father, After Yang, Great Freedom, Neptune Frost, Triangle of Sadness, Kimi, Women Talking, Smile, The Batman, Happening, Watcher, Fresh, Sharp Stick, The Innocents, The Dream and the Radio, Armageddon Time, She Said, Private Desert, Scream, Bros, A Wounded Fawn, The Quiet Girl, Avatar: The Way of Water, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Nanny, The House, Hatching, Corsage. Decision to Leave, Deep Water, The Son, The Fallout, Mad God, Speak No Evil, We Met in Virtual Reality, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, Italian Studies, Palm Trees & Power Lines, Living, Here Before, One Fine Morning, Master, The Tale of King Crab, Last Flight Home, Saloum
A look back at 2021 when The Worst Person in the World was my #1.
Thursday, March 2, 2023
My review of taut, absorbing La Civil is now up at Film-Forward.
Friday, February 24, 2023
My review of the strong documentary, The Stroll, about trans meatpacking district sex workers is now up at Film-Forward.
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
the disappearance of shere hite
Loved this doc about Shere Hite, a figure I hadn't heard of before, but made a significant mainstream cultural impact on sex and gender in the 70s into the 1980s and early 1990s. My review on Film-Forward.
Friday, February 17, 2023
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Maybe it's premature to say, but Lana Del Rey's sprawling "A&W," released on Valentine's Day, already feels like a definitive pop single. Co-written by Jack Antonoff, in a time where singles are being shortened to one minute and under to make way for TikTok influencers, the chilled "A&W" clocks in over seven minuets covering an array of sonic tones and genre.
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Another strong single release from Jessie Ware.
Next album That! Feels Good! (will exclamation points be the new caps?) drops April 2023.
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Leeds-based outfit Drahla helps us lip sync for our lives with this punchy, sax-laden tune.
Monday, February 6, 2023
Friday, February 3, 2023
all dirt roads taste of salt
My review of the densely lyrical film by Raven Jackson, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, is now up at Film-Foward.
Friday, January 6, 2023
30 years of 1992!
Meep and I made it to the end of 1992! It was so fun revisiting the films of this year on the Retro Movie Love podcast. Lots of variety, and some overlapping themes.
YouTube of our discussion below:
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
If there are humanist films, there can also be animalist films, and Jerzy Skolimowski's donkey-led stunner EO (a callback to Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar) is an evocative animalist film--a blunt vision of how horrible humankind can be, especially in relationship to the natural world. I saw two environmental docs recently--The Territory and Wildcat--both powerful films which grapple with the devastating effects of deforestation on both indigenous people and animals. However, despite being fictional, EO has the same urgent feel and realism of a non-fiction work with an unbridled sense of lingering sorrow. Utilizing Michał Dymek's dynamic, groundbreaking cinematography, the film stays close to EO's perspective. A circus performer, EO escapes and goes on various journeys through towns and countryside. Sometimes we glimpse the world through EO's eyes--sometimes the point-of-view shifts, and we see our hero from afar and above, and sometimes we see him intimately close, with the keen sound mix enhancing the sonics of ants crawling on a piece of fallen wood below his muzzle. There's even a bizarre detour to a character played by Isabelle Huppert as a countess in a rambling Italian villa. The meaning of this sequence strikes like a wrecked chord: jarring notes of clarity and opaqueness, as the viewer wrestles suddenly with being placed within this very un-Christian "Christian" / "human" human environment of picturesque beauty riven with grim, seedy undertones.
Remarkably, EO was filmed over a few years by a director who shows considerable formidability in his mid-eighties. There are modern, unusual uses of lighting and color (garish red strobes of the circus and the sleek neon green lasers of trappers). It's a film of EO's wanderlust not by luxury nor choice, but by means of survival. We witness the treatment of animals in the wild, including in the fur trade (legal in Poland) and factory farming. It can be a grim experience, but the movie always feels sensitive and organic to its roaming, fable-like quality rather than exploitive. Suddenly, leopard-print pants look extremely strange! This is due to introspective, sharp film editing (by Agnieszka Glińska) and the stirring performances of the animals (EO was played by six different donkeys; you wouldn't know since the film is so well-cut) who express emotion that somehow feels tangible. Also of note are the burgeoning symphonic brays that sweep through the excellent score by Paweł Mykietyn. His work fuses the grandeur and horrors of EO and his experiences. In its modest runtime, EO is one of the few films I can think of that encapsulates much about the human and animal condition through observation and visual wit, rather than depressing didacticism. ***1/2
Monday, January 2, 2023
jeffery berg's top 10 albums of 2022!
Denzel Curry has been around but he was a new discovery for me in 2022 with his bold, urgent album. Varied deliveries of profound lyrics and an arresting use of instrumental tracks.
‘Melt My Eyez’ is a metaphor for things we choose not to see on a daily basis: we avoid people, we avoid the news, we avoid criticism, but most importantly, we avoid facing the truth ourselves when it’s right in front of us. ‘See Your Future’ comes from self-reflection and the realization that I’m going to do something to better the world by letting them know that we are all the same and we can move forward in life if we don’t focus on the past. -Denzel Curry
Like Denzel Curry, Chicago's Saba is another exciting artist who has been around and was introduced to me for the first time this year. This creamy-smooth rap / soul record, with its strong guest spots and lovingly-rendered samples is a triumph. The back-to-back highs of "Fearmonger" and "Come My Way" in the center of the record are particularly exbuerent.
A few good things so for me right now [is] family, time, how we spend time, and peace. That’s a few great things to be honest. [Laughs.] It’s like how you said, with what we’re in right now with the world and everything, just finding comfort in whatever you can find it in. It’s such a thing I think we took for granted. So, I think, just finding comfort. Living in confidence [and] being sure of yourself. I’m always preaching confidence. Everything moves once you believe it’s gonna move. -Saba
Time for Three, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Xian Zhang
Dynamic, vibrant, forward-looking performances from string trio Time for Three alongside The Philadelphia Orchestra of contemporary classical pieces by two key modern American composers, Kevin Puts and Jennifer Higdon.
[This album] is our collective way of journaling what is happening in music now, and sending it forth into the universe for the future... It’s definitely daunting how one moment like this, the big reveal, represents literally hundreds of elements coming together in perfect sync. -Time for Three
The Virginia Beach vibe is strong on Pusha T's speedy record--another smashing rap album from the year. The lyrics are sardonic and sharp overall, and Pharrell's pulsing production is singularly impressive. Kanye is unfavored (to say the least) right now, but hard to ignore his skills contributed here as well.
It’s all about creating the best product you can create... That’s just the standard. I want people to look at this street rap narration that I’m painting and understand that this is all I want to make. Don’t ask me for anything else. I’m not entertaining you. I’ve been a realist. I’ve shown you everything. I’ve won the wars. I went through label dramas. I withstood everything. Now is the best time for me to be more creative and fully uplift the genre. -Pusha T
There's not a dud on this tuneful folk-synth-pop album. It's a record that grew on me throughout the year and got better and better. Its warm optimism welcome ("Things will be fine" / "Right on Time"). The special edition flip version featuring an array of guest stars isn't too shabby either. Occasionally, less is more in a maximalist-feeling era: both Pusha T and Metronomy's crisp albums clock in under 40 minutes each.
The songs that do engage with the kind of universal, youthful pop themes of old - like the sweet and groovy ballad ‘Right On Time’ - he explains are getting harder and harder to write. It’s basically about meeting someone and falling in love, and the last time that happened to me was 11 years ago! I suppose now, it feels a bit like, come on, start writing about something that’s true… -Joe Mount
A reason to wait for the year to end before compiling a Top 10 list: Little Simz's bold Monday album drop late-breaker! (should more albums start dropping on the most depressing day of the week?) A bit leaner than her last record (my #1 of 2021), but Little Simz continues genius work here. The orchestral instrumentations and sound-work is just as impressive as her unworldly, acidic delivery and lyrics.
emotion is energy in motion. honour your truth and feelings. eradicate fear. boundaries are important.
It's pretty incredible to see Lamar's output with every new record. Not as hook-driven or catchy as some of his last efforts, but it's maybe his most rambling, epic work yet. Blazing, rapid-fire raps, unusual tempo shifts and piano-riff melodies. Some choice guest appearances too. "We Cry Together" is an electric mosaic of a crazy toxic relationship, and actress Taylour Paige's against-type performance on it is something else.
This is my most present album. -Kendrick Lamar
Clicks and clacks, jazz-inspired sound-beds, thundering drums, evocative interludes, singer / songwriter & violinist Brittney Parks aka Sudan Archives' incredible album always keeps one on their toes with inventive and pleasing sonics and tunes.
It's my time to have joy — to have Black girl joy. Making art, loving, dancing. So I'm not trying to be vibrating low [and] thinking about all those things. I just kind of feel like it's a trap, in a way. Once I start thinking about that, then I'm in a box. So I'm free. -Sudan Archives
I have long been a fan of Salvant's broad, gorgeous voice, so when I saw she was covering Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," I couldn't wait to hear what she was up to! I was not disappointed. Though a notable jazz singer, as a whole, the album is almost unclassifiable in a single genre--or Salvant is pushing jazz and blues into new spaces. Nevertheless, it's a cohesive, moody tapestry of haunted songs.
I wanted to have different sonic environments. I wanted to have a little bit of field recordings, some clean studio sounds, and echoing church. I really wanted to play with the different colors of environments and contexts, because that's how I listen to music. This is what I like as a listener — a lot of different textures. So, we were trying to go for that to an extent.
But it's quite different from what I've done in the past. We recorded with great studio microphones but also with cell phones. Children recorded themselves on cell phones in their homes. I recorded my nieces in my sister's house on the cell phone. Then we recorded inside the St. Malachy's Church in Manhattan. So, there were a lot of different textures to play with. -McLorin Salvant
Not much more can be said that hasn't been said about Beyoncé's thrilling, house-infused dance album of perfection. Renaissance is of shiny entertainment, sample-hopping, and joy, but also of contemplation.
Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place. A place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream. Release. Feel Freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration. -Beyoncé
For key tracks from my Top 10 Albums of 2022, see below for Spotify playlist of my favorite 2022 songs.