Thoughts on Zero Effect (1998)

It opens like a blatant rip-off of Sherlock Holmes (and indeed the story is adapted from A Scandal in Bohemia), but Zero Effect (1998) subtly shifts from character study to whodunit—and then back to character study, as if it needed to ground its true character development in an actual story, after which the story could be thrown away.

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Review of Penguin Highway (The News Lens International)

My review of Penguin Highway (Pengin Haiwei / ペンギン・ハイウェイ 2018) has just been published at The News Lens International. Check it out here!

Thoughts on Contact Prints of Baileng Canal (Yinyang Bailengzun / 印樣白冷圳 2018)

Editor’s note: This piece is on the 2018-19 Post-Nature exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

An art museum may seem like an unusual place to see a film, but then again Contact Prints of Baileng Canal (Yinyang Bailengzun / 印樣白冷圳 2018) isn’t just another film. Baileng Canal, a manmade tributary of the Dajia River in Taichung County, Taiwan, was built by the Japanese colonial government in 1927 in what was a huge undertaking. This documentary, written, directed, shot, and edited by Huang Shin-yao, follows the Dajia, the canal, and the terminal uses of the canal’s water using a mostly unbroken series of static shots (and the occasional pan), sans score or exposition. It’s meditative and beautiful.

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Thoughts on Utøya: July 22 (Utøya 22. juli 2018)

Utøya: July 22 (Utøya 22. juli 2018) is a stunning technical and moral achievement. Directed by Erik Poppe and written by Anna Bache-Wiig and Rajendram Eliassen based on survivor accounts, the Norwegian film depicts the 72-minute-long summer camp mass shooting on the small island of Utøya on 22 July 2011—as a one-shot in real time. Norway’s only mass shooting in modern times is a raw point of trauma, and the shoot had psychotherapists on hand for crew and (especially) cast. David Ehrlich has written a delicate and powerful review; I want to dig a little deeper into the moral-aesthetic aspect.

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Thoughts on Aquaman (2018)

Here’s the thing to keep in mind about Aquaman (2018): It’s plotted, structured, and shot using videogame aesthetics. That’s why it’s so funky when you try to think about it using traditional film grammar. But as a series of long cinematic cutscenes, with the boring grind left out, it’s a magnificent achievement.

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