kottke.org posts about Matt Zoller Seitz

Best TV shows of 2014Dec 08 2014

kottke.org favorite Matt Zoller Seitz weighs in on his top 10 best TV shows for 2014. For someone who doesn't watch a ton of TV, I have seen a surprising number of these.

My friend David has been trying to tell me about Hannibal, but I haven't been listening. Maybe I should start? Olive Kitteridge was great; Frances McDormand was incredible. True Detective was pretty good and I was lukewarm on Cosmos (I have NDT issues). Mad Men continues to be great...I keep waiting for it to fall off in quality, but it hasn't happened. The Roosevelts was really interesting and like Seitz, I find myself thinking about it often. I've seen bits and pieces of John Oliver but I get enough of the "humans are awful ha ha" news on Twitter to become a regular viewer.

Other shows I've watched that aren't on the list: Downton Abbey (my favorite soap), Game of Thrones (tied w/ Mad Men for my fave current show, although MM is better), Boardwalk Empire (strong finish), Sherlock (still fun, tho got a bit too self referential there), and Girls (gave up after s03e04 when it was airing but recently powered through rest of the 3rd season and is back in my good graces).

Deadwood, a retrospective 10 years onMar 12 2014

For the show's 10th anniversary, a video essay about Deadwood, perhaps the best three-season show that'll ever be. Written and produced by Matt Zoller Seitz for RogerEbert.com.

Deadwood the series is a whole heck of a lot of things, in no particular order. And it's that "in no particular order" part that makes it so rich.

(via @djacobs)

Video essay series on Wes Anderson concludesOct 29 2013

Speaking of Wes Anderson, Matt Zoller Seitz has finished his video essay series on Anderson's movies. You can find the entire collection of videos on Vimeo and transcripts and notes are on Seitz's blog. Here are the final two to get you going:

And if that's not enough for you, here's the book that the videos are based on.

Wes Anderson's Star Wars referenceOct 22 2013

Nestled in the midst of Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is this bombshell: the movie contains a Star Wars reference no one seems to have noticed. Seitz synced the scenes for us:

Life Aquatic Star Wars reference

There have to be others, right? Many of Anderson's films end with all of the characters gathered together like at the medals ceremony in Episode IV...someone even synced up the end of the movie with the closing credits music from Zissou and it works really well:

And of course, there's Conan O'Brien's take on what a Star Wars movie directed by Anderson might look like.

The Wes Anderson Collection: The Motion PictureOct 17 2013

Matt Zoller Seitz is doing a video essay series based on his new book, The Wes Anderson Collection. The first two installments, on Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, are already up:

I love what he says about Rushmore:

There are few perfect movies. This is one of them.

The book and video essays came about because Anderson saw Seitz's earlier video essay series, The Substance of Style, an examination of Anderson's stylistic influences. Great resource for fans of Anderson and film.

The Wes Anderson CollectionOct 08 2013

Out today is The Wes Anderson Collection (at Amazon), a coffee-table book about Wes Anderson's career.

The Wes Anderson Collection is the first in-depth overview of Anderson's filmography, guiding readers through his life and career. Previously unpublished photos, artwork, and ephemera complement a book-length conversation between Anderson and award-winning critic Matt Zoller Seitz. The interview and images are woven together in a meticulously designed book that captures the spirit of his films: melancholy and playful, wise and childish -- and thoroughly original.

Vulture has an excerpt of the chapter on The Royal Tenenbaums.

Q: Gene Hackman - it was always your dream for him to play Royal?

A: It was written for him against his wishes.

Q: I'm gathering he was not an easy person to get.

A: He was difficult to get.

Q: What were his hesitations? Did he ever tell you?

A: Yeah: no money. He's been doing movies for a long time, and he didn't want to work sixty days on a movie. I don't know the last time he had done a movie where he had to be there for the whole movie and the money was not good. There was no money. There were too many movie stars, and there was no way to pay. You can't pay a million dollars to each actor if you've got nine movie stars or whatever it is - that's half the budget of the movie. I mean, nobody's going to fund it anymore, so that means it's scale.

That's right, Gene Hackman (and probably the rest of them as well) worked for scale on The Royal Tenenbaums.

Anderson also talks about the scene in The Darjeeling Limited where they show everyone on the train:

Q: When you turn to reveal the tiger, what is that, the other side of the train?

A: No, it's all one car. We gutted a car, and that is a fake forest that we built on the train, and it is a Jim Henson creature on our train car. The whole thing is one take, and I think because we did it that way, while we were doing it, we did feel this electricity, you know? There's tension in it because it's all real. Fake but real. I mean, that was the idea. The emotion of it, well -- there's nothing really happening in the scene, you know? They just kind of sit there, but it was a real thing that was happening. But I did at the time have this feeling like "I don't know."

Even if it's fake, it's real.

Fame in the moviesJun 30 2010

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.

Food in moviesNov 25 2009

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.

The evolution of the modern blockbuster movieAug 31 2009

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.

Tarantino's dialogueAug 19 2009

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.

Following shotsJun 03 2009

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)

Wes Anderson, annotatedApr 15 2009

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.

Wes Anderson's influencesApr 02 2009

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)

Tags related to Matt Zoller Seitz:
movies video Wes Anderson books TV

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