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Elaborated re-post: Not watching your own movies

Any good interview, even one that’s entirely friendly on the surface, should have a slight adversarial quality, since the reporter and the subject have inherently different goals. The Coens don’t always suffer fools gladly, but they give good copy, even in one-word answers to questions that don’t interest them. (“Do you get excited about the Cannes competition?” one reporter asked them. “Does that get your heart pumping?” Ethan Coen: “No.”) Over the years the Coens have developed a routine that lies somewhere between practiced shtick and a psychological coping mechanism. Ethan, the younger, shorter, lighter-haired brother, delivers brief responses, often glib or acrid in tone, and then the taller, older and more loquacious Joel bails him out, expounding generously on the original question or diverting it into friendlier terrain. [. . .] Well, I feel like one aspect of that is that your movies almost always reward a second viewing. There’s always stuff I didn’t see or didn’t understand a…

Sparks of inspiration -- MEET JET ENGINE!

Jordan and his friends grew up lower-middle class, at best, in the inner suburbs of Queens and Long Island. They had been to state college, community college or no college at all; in class terms, they represented an insurrection against the Ivy-educated, third- and fourth-generation wealth that dominated the financial industries. It’s not terribly surprising, then, that they were reactionary in other ways, striving to outdo the established Wall Street firms in institutional sexism and frat-boy-style bad behavior, whether that meant spending hundreds of thousands every month on prostitutes and strippers, holding dwarf-tossing tournaments or consuming both prescription drugs and illegal street drugs by the truckload. (Jordan and his pal Donnie Azoff, Hill’s character, engage in an extended search for troves of genuine Quaaludes that yields a number of hilarious and/or horrifying developments.) So “The Wolf of Wall Street” is much funnier than most previous Scorsese films, and also a whol…

Noblesse oblige

Everybody who writes about movies dreads making these lists, yet all of us want to readeach other’s lists. Partly we’re looking for affirmation, partly we’re looking for ideas, and partly we’re looking for guidance on how to approach this strange exercise in subjectivity and perspective. I kept my movie-watching in 2013 to an almost human scale at roughly 175 films, about half the number I typically watched in the days of Salon’s “Beyond the Multiplex” column. (I know plenty of people in and around the film business who watch 450 to 500, or even more.) Even so, you wind up faced with ridiculous conundrums: How do I decide whether a contentious French drama about a love affair between two young women is better or worse than an absorbing and informative documentary set in Tahrir Square? Can’t we say they’re both terrific, and leave it at that? Sure we could, but that would be cheating. I decided sit down one day in mid-December and make the list quickly, without much deliberation. I don’…