Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday morning. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Q: We’re heading into the dog days of
summer, when the pace of new releases slackens enough to allow for some
pleasurable catch-up. So: Name one thing — book, movie, gardening
project — you’d like to finally
get around to, and one piece of 2014 culture you love that everyone
else needs to catch up on.
Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today
Two hopelessly predictable answers: I spent the first part of the summer tracking down a copy of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle,” but haven’t read it yet. So I plan to haul it around with me on my many travels over the next month and read it, mostly because I’m teaching a creative non-fiction class in the fall and I know some of the students have already read it, and will ask about it. While I am generally skilled at having opinions about memoirs I have not read (spoiler alert: most are not good), the buzz seems to imply that this one deserves a fair shake. (Only slightly less cliched answer: I’ve just started “Broadchurch,” and wow, now that’s all I want to watch forever.)
And anyone who hasn’t needs to do two things: read “The Empathy Exams,” and catch up on “The Americans.”
Richard Brody, the New Yorker
I’ve mentioned this omission before, and the fact that in the intervening time I haven’t done anything to remedy it suggests a story in itself. I’ve never seen “Barry Lyndon” and have heard enough good things about it to make me eager to do so. Yet when I’ve got three hours on my hands, or twice ninety minutes, curiosity never seems to yield to actual desire — which more or less sums up my feelings about most of Kubrick’s films that I have seen (with the exception of “Eyes Wide Shut,” with its uninhibited and even unhinged rush of desire). He’s a director of nearly pathological control, and he surpasses himself when he loses control. As for the shock of the new: Nathan Silver’s “Uncertain Terms” (which is still awaiting release) has a frightening wildness and spontaneity akin to that of his previous film, “Soft in the Head,” but also a roundedness from a deftly sketched batch of characters who bring together a wider world of stories. It’s a superb example of an increased sense of control serving to expand the purview and to refine the worldview, a reminder of Robert Bresson’s dictum that directors should first direct themselves.
Miriam Bale, New York Times
Bob Stanley’s book “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” which is sure to be the best criticism of the year. And I think “Jealousy” may be Philippe Garrel’s best film. It’s definitely one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
Dan Kois, Slate
I am looking forward to reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Blue Mars,” the third book in his amazing Mars trilogy. I read the first two volumes the previous two summers, and am itchy to read what happens next in this remarkably ambitious work about outlandishly ambitious work. Meanwhile, I think everyone should listen to the spooky and resonant album “Lost in the Dream” by the War on Drugs.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, What the Flick?!
I really need to see “Closed Curtain,” another of Jafar Panahi’s movies being made at a time when he has been forbidden by his government to make movies. It played a half-schedule for one week in Los Angeles, but I’m hoping to get another crack at it. The thing from this year that I love that more people need to experience if Lukas Moodysson’s “We Are the Best!” which is now streaming so you have no excuse whatsoever.
Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com, Some Came Running
I’m in the middle of my catchup project, now, reading Barth’s “The Sot-Weed Factor,” which everyone of my generation was supposed to have tackled as an undergrad. It’s a hoot,
The thing everybody ought to catch up on is Robert Coover’s “The Brunist Day Of Wrath,” which has garnered respectful reviews that come nowhere near its synapse-searing awesomeness. My own book on De Niro comes out Tuesday, too, so there’s that.
Oh wait, movies? Lanzmann’s “The Last of the Unjust” is just incredible and again, hasn’t been celebrated enough. So that.
Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire
It has been forever since I played a good video game, and right now “The Last of Us” is calling out to me from the top of my PS3, while “Broken Age” lurks on my iPad. Both are games, I’m told, that offer complex storytelling while not demanding that you actually be good at, y’know, playing video games — which works out well for me, as I’m a fan of the medium but terrible at actual gameplay. (Unless I am playing “Street Fighter” as Chung Li, in which case I am indomitable.)
Meanwhile, friends, you need to dig in and explore “Hannibal,” if you haven’t yet. Yes, it’s gross. Yes, it’s weird. But it’s also some of the best television happening right now. You owe it to yourself.
Ben Travers, Indiewire
After sitting through the “Hannibal” panel at Sunday’s Comic-Con, I plan to catch up on Bryan Fuller’s artfully bloody series before it gets too far away from me. With what’s to come — as well as what we’ve already seen — everyone should be excited about the NBC show to end all other NBC shows (or at least the perception of what can and can’t be shown on broadcast television). A night in with a few choice dishes (I’m thinking Italian) sounds like the perfect way to pass the time until “The Expendables 3” comes out and movies are great again.
Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
I want to see “Lucy” and “Get On Down.” And I really loved the novel “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Jason Osder, “Let the Fire Burn”
The 2014 film that I most want to see is “Evolution of a Criminal” by Darius Clark Monroe, winner of the grand jury prize at Full Frame.
I’d love everyone to see Alexandre Rockwell’s “Little Feet.”
Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly
One of the things I bought while furnishing my new apartment in Salt Lake City was a box set of A Song of Ice and Fire, which I’m finally reading and thoroughly enjoying; they’re surprisingly un-daunting in actuality, fellow “Game of Thrones” fans who might be interested. My one piece of 2014 culture I love that everyone else needs to catch up on is the year’s best short film. I’m sure you may have watched it once or twice, but have you truly basked in its filmic majesty?
Jordan Hoffman, New York Daily News, Vanity Fair
For myself: I used to be very good about starting one book and then finishing it, but at some point in the last 2 years I became one of those loons who reads multiple things concurrently. Right now I am (slowly) making my way through four things: two nonfiction (Reza Aslan’s “Zealot” and Simon Sebag Montifiore’s “Jerusalem: The Biography,” which have some nice overlap), one fiction (John le Carré’s “The Little Drummer Girl”) and one nine volume series of comic book trade paperbacks (John Byrne’s Fantastic Four “Visionaries” from the early to mid 1980s, which is truly a good time.) My goal is to finish and cease this madness by August’s conclusion then get back to being a one woman man. When that happens my response will be the usual “I’d like to crack ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ type of thing.”
For others: Not enough people are talking about “Particle Fever.” It made some noise at the New York Film Festival last year and got great reviews with its theatrical release this March. Now it is available for rental. It’s even streaming on Netflix. Everyone should see this movie, it is a rare and much needed blast of optimism in a dismal world.
Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Popmatters
I have a PB copy of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “A Death in the Family” that’s been languishing on my book shelf for a while that I understand I pretty much need to read in order to understand anything of significance about the human condition. For a recommendation, I realize I’m late as hell to this particular party, but I’ve been giggling through most of the installments of the “Epic Rap Battles of History” on their YouTube channel, and think anyone not familiar with such should go ahead and do the same.
Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend
Everyone needs to see “Under the Skin.” No exceptions. It’s a film that pushes at the boundaries of our understanding of cinema with a visually driven but sparse story that forces you to find answers and a sound design specially made to mess with your head. It’s on VOD now, so excuses will be accepted for missing out on this masterpiece.As to what I need to catch up on: Orphan Black. It’s
too big and intriguing for me to continue putting it off. A weekend
marathon is a must. I know.
Greg Cwik, Indiewire, The Believer
I’d like to get around to seeing “Locke,” which seemed to come and go really quickly. (Is that just me? Probably.) i’m also waiting on that debut novel that started a multi-million dollar bidding war last year. It was in the Times, some mammoth postmodern look at New York circa the squalid ’70s. I was promised shades of DeLillo, Pynchon, and New Hollywood cynicism!
And anyone who wrote off “The Killing” and skipped season three owes it to themselves to put their uppity nose-thumbing behind them and watch it. Peter Sarsgaard is spectacular in the complicated role of the death row inmate who may have killed his wife. It’s a subtly layered turn; he’s an enigma shrouded in shadows whose vulnerability is slowly revealed, and he never hits a false or overblown note. Sarsgaard was sadly overlooked at pretty much all the awards jerk-off circles this year. The rest of the cast is great, too, and the show finally shed its penchant for gimmickry in favor of truly grueling suspense. S3 is the kind of searing, sordid thriller that everyone thought the show would be when it premiered four years ago.
Kenji Fujishima, Slant, In Review Online
One thing I’d definitely like to catch up on is Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice,” in time for the New York Film Festival world premiere of the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson movie adaptation. I suppose I should also do my due diligence and catch up on Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” too, before the David Fincher adaptation plays at NYFF, but frankly, that’s less of a priority to me.
As for a piece of 2014 culture that people need to catch up on: Well, considering that the film is technically three years old and only this year finally got a week-long theatrical run here in New York, this may be stretching the definition of “2014 culture” to the breaking point, but…if you have not caught up with Sion Sono’s harrowing “Himizu” yet, you should all get on that right quick, or at least whenever it finally makes its way onto home video.
Cameron Williams, The Popcorn Junkie
A great new podcast has popped up on iTunes called “The X-Files Files” featuring comedian, Kumail Nanjiani, chatting about Chris Carter’s iconic television series with different guests each episode. I’ve listened to the first few and it’s fantastic, a highlight is the episode featuring “Community” creator, Dan Harmon, but now the plan is to watch every episode of “The X-Files” from the beginning and check in on podcast.
Everyone needs to catch up on the new television series “The Honorable Woman.” It’s a spy thriller that’s a cross between “House of Cards” and “Homeland” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal playing an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman and Baroness caught in a political storm. To date only four episodes of the eight-part series have aired in the United Kingdom, and the show will debut in America on Sundance TV, 31 July 2014. If I told you it was better than the mark of television quality in 2014, “True Detective,” you wouldn’t believe me so see for yourself.
Peter Labuza, “Approaching the End,” The Cinephiliacs
If we must play by the theatrical week long release date rules, everyone should do their best to catch up with Alain Guiraudie’s “The King of Escape.” I do enjoy “Stranger By the Lake,” but “King” is the more unwieldy and bizarre work — magical realism about an older gay man who becomes attracted to a teenage girl, evolving into a quasi-“Badlands” but never something romantic more than a dark fairy tale, where the landscapes seem to morph with every edit. Dan Sallitt writes perfectly of it: “[Guiraudie] stylizes the social landscape into an idealized vision of sexuality freely expressed and tolerated; and yet the comic compression of the plot suggests a paranoid dream of punishment and persecution for the slightest and most concealed sexual impulse.” It’s absurd yet compulsively watchable, and the film’s final image is at one ridiculously heartfelt and sublimely comic, and few films give you that kind of impulse.
Ethan Alter, Film Journal International, NYC Film Critic
Thanks to its sporadic publishing schedule, I had given up trying to follow Jeff Smith’s “Bone” — one of my very favorite comic series — follow-up “RASL” in single-issue or individual graphic novel form. But the complete run was released in hardcover late last year and I’ve had it sitting on my shelf awaiting a cover-to-cover vacation read. (“Inherent Vice” is next on the To Be Read pile, especially now that PTA’s movie version has nabbed an NYFF berth.) I already sang its praises in my Halftime Report, but the Adam Scott Aukerman all-U2, some of the time podcast “U Talkin’ U2 to Me?” has wrapped up its first initial run, so all 16 episodes of this “comprehensive and encyclopedic” guide to the Irish rock outfit are available for your listening pleasure during the late-summer doldrums. Whether you spread them out over a two-week period or go on a 24-hour binge (though since each episode runs about two hours, it’ll be closer to 36), you’ll be treated to the sounds of some good rock ‘n’ roll music and two very funny guys goofing off.
Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly
Having finally made my way through an impressive Season 1 of “The Americans,” I’m looking forward to finding out if my colleagues are correct who claim that the show took it to the next level for Season 2 — and in so doing, finding myself in the rare position of actually being completely caught up on a current show. If I can cheat and add a “half” to my own, I’m actually eager for a second look at “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I merely enjoyed the first time around yet I have a sneaking feeling will evolve into something even richer. And while there are plenty of great things that have been a frequent part of the pop-culture conversation, I hope more people will catch up with the terrific documentary “Mistaken for Strangers,” which is so much more than “The National tour documentary” that was suggested even by its Twitter account name. It’s one of the loveliest portraits of a contentious brotherly relationship that I can recall.
John DeCarli, Film Capsule
There are plenty of early-year releases that I’ll need to catch up with! Most notably, though, is Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive.” From all I’ve heard about this film, the subject of listless immortal vampires/artists meshes perfectly with Jarmusch’s sense of detached cool. The cast also seems perfect, especially in a year where I realized just how much my interest in a film picks up as soon as John Hurt enters the frame. If others are doing a similar bit of late-summer catch-up, I’d highly recommend seeking out “Mistaken For Strangers,” a funny and heartfelt documentary that begins as a story about the band The National, and ends as an investigation of brotherhood, self-esteem and expectations. It’s more Ross McElwee than rock doc, and it’s unquestionably a better film for it. Highly recommended!
Nell Minow, Beliefnet
I’m just finishing up at Comic-Con, so what I’d most like to catch up with is rest. But there are a few movies I’ve missed that I’d like to see, like “Ida” and “Locke.” And I loved “Life Itself,” the magnificent documentary about Roger Ebert from “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James. Roger famously responded to people who told him that they didn’t want to see “Rocky” because it was about boxing, “It isn’t about boxing. It’s about Rocky.” This documentary is not a movie about critics or about movies. It is about Roger, and his long journey to a life well lived and well loved.
Jake Howell, Movie City News
Apparently the “Fargo” television series is pretty good! I wasn’t expecting that, so I will catch up sooner or later.
Meanwhile, if you aren’t watching “Nathan for You,” do yourself a favor and Youtube search “The Ghost Realtor” to get a sense of how funny and subversive Mr. Fielder’s show can be.
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News
I will watch “Vicious,” as I have been missing it so far and it looks like good fun. I think everyone should try to see Joanna Hogg’s films, “Unrelated,” “Archipelago,” and “Exhibition” if they can. I have been very impressed by this filmmaker’s work, which I only learned about late last year.
Jason Shawhan, The Nashville Scene, Interface 2037
I’m looking forward to catching up with Season Two of “Hemlock Grove.” The first season was an extremely guilty pleasure that I stuck with because of accessibility, gossamer homoeroticism, a willingness to embrace the truly strange, and those far too few moments when Lili Taylor and Famke Janssen would get diva-ish with one another. But it also had one of the great explorations of Mary Shelley’s postmodern Prometheus in the character of Shelley Godfrey. Interestingly, I have seen Episode One of Season Two, and it’s an exponential leap forward in quality. So I’m eager to sit back with a mental margarita and spend some time catching up on the new season.
What I’d recommend to anyone is Season One of “Penny Dreadful.” An atmospheric, lush, and genuinely sensual horror series that assumes its viewers can handle big words and bigger concepts. It also complements Season One of HG by giving us a remarkable examination of Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein. There’s a lot to love in its eight episodes, but the easiest sell is Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives. This is an iconic portrayal, easily one of the best-conceived performances that TV has given us: Green is quietly pushing the envelope until a gust of wind sends it soaring into the stratosphere. Episode Seven is simply the best possession narrative since 2006’s Requiem.
Also, since it ties together both halves my responses to the question this week, Ken Russell’s “Gothic” is on Netflix in the U.S. It’s an HD stream and it looks better than any home video version I’ve ever seen of the film. Perfect for the next time you’re looking for something to watch with that stone cask of absinthe you’ve got in the pantry.
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing
I’m hoping to finally get around to revisiting some of the films I heavily praised last year, like “Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Lone Survivor,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and so on. I rarely get to watch things twice these days, so I’d like to take the opportunity to dive back into at least one or two of those. As for something from this year I’d like people to catch up on, that’d be Andy Weir’s book “The Martian.” It’s a cross between “Apollo 13,” “Gravity,” and “Moon,” but with a sense of humor to match its heavily thrilling elements. Drew Goddard was going to direct the adaptation with Matt Damon in the lead, but it’s now Goddard’s script being utilized by Ridley Scott. The movie is a few years away, but the end of the summer is perfect for this one. It’s a quick read. You literally won’t want to put it down.
Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket
I have plans to imminently catch up with “The Raid 2.” I wasn’t able to screen it before release, and when it opened locally, it was at a theater I refuse to attend due to its lousy viewing conditions. Given how much I loved the original, I just couldn’t bring myself to see the sequel in such a substandard manner. I knew my living room would give me a better, purer experience with the film than that theater would, so I held off until the Blu-Ray release. As for what I’d like others to catch up on, I highly recommend David Wain’s hilarious Amy Poehler/Paul Rudd comedy “They Came Together,” John Carney’s joyous musical drama “Begin Again,” and “Strange Desire,” the debut CD from Bleachers.
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second
If you fancy a seasonal challenge that will keep you out of the sunlight I can’t help but suggest Potemkine’s mammoth Eric Rohmer box-set, which was the highlight of my first six months of 2014. Rohmer made some of the great Summer movies too, so it’s temporally apt. His “A Summer’s Tale “has finally found it’s way to the US this year too. I’ll be spending the rest of this Summer finishing off the Criterion Jacques Demy box-set and working my way through the new “Twin Peaks” Blu-ray, which is released this Tuesday. My holiday read is David Bellos’s book on Tati.
Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times, Ashvegas
I like that this question arrives on a week where six new movies are opening in Asheville and the August slate shows little sign up letting up, but I’ll play along. Really the only appealing movie that didn’t play locally that had a chance to is “The Double.” Now that the theatrical window has passed, I may pay to rent it, though I have a feeling it will hit Netflix Instant on or shortly after its Aug. 26 DVD/Blu-ray release, in which case I’ll hold off until then. That still qualifies as dog day pleasure catch-up, yes?
As for what blind spot others should eradicate, I heartily suggest Ages And Ages’ latest album, “Divisionary.” The Portland, OR ensemble’s follow-up to 2011’s Alright You Restless solidifies them as the go-to source for upbeat, insightful indie rock and the new album especially is a pleasure to play on repeat. If Ages And Ages was a cult, I would probably join it, but I would settle for a show at The Orange Peel.
Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, Slant Magazine
I’m trying to catch up on re-watches of some of the more obscure science fiction shows from my childhood, TV projects that were hardly classics but still have their cult followings including “The Invaders,” “Logan’s Run,” “The Martian Chronicles,” and both the animated and live-action “Planet of the Apes” TV series.
As for everyone else, I hope they catch up with two of this year’s finest films, both now available on VOD/streaming, the beautifully evocative “The Immigrant” and “Snowpiercer,” a dystopian actioner that could compete with any summer blockbuster.
Zac Oldenburg, Having Said That
I know it’s only a week plus old, but “Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley is already something I am dying to find time to sit down and read; maybe this will motivate me!
Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine
It’s hard to whittle either of these questions down to just one answer, but I’ll try. In terms of something I want to catch up on, though there are many cinematic candidates, it would probably have to be Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which I ended up missing when it was in theaters. Now it’s on me to set aside enough time to catch up with it via VOD or Blu-ray, but even the negative responses to the film intrigue me.
In terms of a piece of 2014 culture everyone else needs to catch up on, I’m going with a podcast. (Not mine.) I’ve been a big fan of “Comedy Bang! Bang!” since it was called “Comedy Death-Ray Radio,” so a new podcast featuring its host, Scott Aukerman, piqued my interest. I was not, however, expecting “U Talkin’ U2 to Me?,” the 16-episode show he co-hosted with Adam Scott of “Parks and Recreation” and “Party Down,” to be the funniest thing I’ve heard all year. “U Talkin’ U2 to Me?” is meant to be a comprehensive and encyclopedic discussion of the discography of Bono and the rest of the “lovable lads from Liverpool.” But pretty quickly, the Scotts go off the rails and wound up with the goofiest, most outrageous podcast, one which barely talks about U2 in any depth; more often than not, the hosts are gleefully willing to ignore the podcast’s setup and talk about whatever the hell they want. (That’s when they’re not doing sub-podcasts within each episode, from “I Love Films” to “You Poppin’ My Stones?” to “What’s Your Deductible, Bro?”) I appreciate that this is an extraordinarily silly show and won’t be to everyone’s tastes — in an episode with comedian Paul F. Tompkins, the trio laugh about some of the cruelly negative iTunes reviews — but here’s the thing: I am laughing just typing about “U Talkin’ U2 to Me?” Everyone needs to check it out, posthaste.
Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, Tribune
I’m starting to think it will take me a dozen years to see “Boyhood.” By which time my own youth will be a fond, fictionalized memory. Everyone else needs to catch up on Hlynur Pálmason’s “Seven Boats,” an Icelandic/Danish short which is for me — pound for pound — 2014’s finest world-premiere. As far as I know it’s only screened so far in Copenhagen but I know the producers were aiming for an international premiere in Venice. Which would be an appropriate berth.
Q: What is the best movie in theaters?
Other movies receiving multiple votes: “Lucy,” “A Most Wanted Man,” “Snowpiercer”