kottke.org posts about Matt Zoller Seitz
Razzle Dazzle is a six-part video series on how fame is portrayed in Hollywood films.
Razzle Dazzle is a six-part video essay that looks at how movies have examined the many facets of fame (heroism, infamy, and everything in between) and how they have shaped the audience's perception of what fame offers. Chapter 1, "The Pitch," lays out how movies are just one component of an all-consuming media that is constantly shaping the modern image culture. Subsequent chapters look at certain archetypes -- the Hero, the Fraud, the Parasite, the Maverick -- that have become staples of the media cycle.
Part one and part two are currently available.
Another great video essay from Matt Zoller Seitz: Feast, a tribute to images of food on film.
Cooking, perhaps more than any activity, lets an actor exude absolute physical and intellectual mastery without seeming domineering or smug. Why is that? It's probably because, while cooking is a creative talent that has a certain egotistical component (what good cook isn't proud of his or her skills?), there's something inherently humbling about preparing food for other people. It doesn't matter whether you're a workaday gangster footsoldier giving lessons on how to cook for 20 guys, like Richard Castellano's Clemenza in The Godfather, or a hyper-articulate, super-fussy kitchen philosopher like Tony Shalhoub in Big Night, ("To eat good food is to be close to God..."), when you're cooking, it's ultimately not about you; it's about the people at the table. Their approval and pleasure is the end game.
Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas recently completed a five-part video series on the evolution of the summer blockbuster movie focused on the summers of 1984 and 1989.
Part 1: "The origins of MTV editing and post-Boomer cynicism. Also starring Ronald Reagan, John Hughes, semi-gratuitous T&A, synth-pop videos, The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and Prince."
Part 2: "Steven Spielberg's society of the spectacle, the rise of sadism and cynicism in the blockbuster movie, and the influence of the PG-13 rating. Also starring Indiana Jones, Red Dawn, and gremlins. Lots and lots of gremlins."
Part 3: "A lickety-split recap of the second Reagan term, and begin the Bush years with the rise of hip-hop, Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, and the American indie film opting out and breaking out with sex, lies and videotape."
Part 4: "We watch feel-good sequels ape the spirit of '84 while the heroes of Lethal Weapon II and The Abyss flip out, and the unprecedented Batman taps into the decayed American city."
Part 5: "The New Sincerity, as rediscovered in the hallowed teen-movie triumvirate of Heathers, Dead Poets Society and Say Anything, released within three months of each other twenty years ago."
Some of the clips are NSFW.
Matt Zoller Seitz has put together a selection of scenes from Quentin Tarantino's movies to illustrate what Seitz calls "the filmmaker's Socrates-in-a-dive-bar mindset" with regard to dialogue.
Tarantino doesn't just explore language's capacity to reveal and conceal motives and personality, he shows how people pick words and phrases (consciously or subconsciously) in order to define themselves and others, and describe the reality they inhabit (or would like to inhabit). Even low-key and seemingly unimportant exchanges are as carefully choreographed as boxing matches. Clever flurries of interrogatory jabs are often blocked by witty responses; the course of conflict can be shifted by deft rhetorical footwork that re-frames the terms of debate.
From Matt Zoller Seitz, Following: a collection of movie clips where the camera follows a character through their environment.
See also Seitz's The Substance of Style series on Wes Anderson's influences.
Update: See also The Explanation by Seitz, Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions, and Jad Abumrad's selection of movie clips with great music. And a shot that should have been included in Following: the lovely opening to Birth. (thx, dan & matt)
Matt Zoller Seitz has completed his five-part look at Wes Anderson's influences.
Part 1: Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and Francois Truffaut
Part 2: Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols
Part 3: Hal Ashby
Part 4: J.D. Salinger
Part 5: The Royal Tenenbaums, annotated
Seek out the video links in the right sidebar; they're better than just reading the text. From the Salinger segment:
Detractors say Anderson's dense production design (courtesy of regular collaborator David Wasco) overwhelms his stories and characters. This complaint presumes that in real life our grooming and style choices aren't a kind of uniform -- visual shorthand for who we are or who we want others to think we are. This is a key strength of both Anderson and Salinger's work. Both artists have a knack for what might be called "material synecdoche" -- showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.
The fifth part, where Seitz annotates the beginning segment of The Royal Tenenbaums with text, images, and video, is particularly fun to watch.
In the first part of a five-part series, Matt Zoller Seitz examines the influences that have shaped Wes Anderson's films.
When I interviewed Anderson for a 1998 Star-Ledger article about A Charlie Brown Christmas, directed by the late animator Bill Melendez, Anderson cited Melendez as one of three major influences on his work, so we'll start there. Anderson told me that he and his screenwriting collaborator, Owen Wilson, conceived Rushmore hero Max Fischer as Charlie Brown plus Snoopy. He said that Miss Cross, the teacher Max adores and will draw into a weirdly Freudian love triangle with the industrialist Mr. Blume, is a combination of Charlie Brown's teacher and his unattainable love object, the little red-haired girl.
The video (located in the right sidebar) takes longer to watch than it does to read the text, but the visual comparisons are worth it. I can't wait to read parts 2-5. (via the house next door)