S. James Snyder

Poet’s Problem

S. James Snyder on I Am Secretly an Important Man

December 2010

THANKS TO HIS GRIZZLED VOICE and fascination with fringe life, Seattle poet Steven “Jesse” Bernstein emerged as a homegrown icon of the 1980s Northwest alternative scene. The writer, assiduously chronicled in Peter Sillen’s documentary I Am… READ ON

FILM

Second to Nun

S. James Snyder on The Portuguese Nun

October 2010

RARELY HAS A MOVIE opened with the serene, picturesque tranquility that flows through the first minutes of The Portuguese Nun’s (2009): a slow and sumptuous 180-degree scan of the Lisbon skyline, shot from the hills above, accompanied by only… READ ON

FILM

Family Circus

S. James Snyder on Around a Small Mountain

July 2010

THE ELEGIAC MONOLOGUES and bittersweet themes of Around a Small Mountain (2009) seem uniquely appropriate, given the career arc of the film’s director. At eighty-one, Jacques Rivette, key member of the French New Wave, has molded an ephemeral… READ ON

FILM

Bird Watching

S. James Snyder on Ghost Bird

April 2010

BACK IN 2005, a couple of birdwatchers kayaking through the swamps of rural Brinkley, Arkansas, managed to capture on their digital video camera the fluttering white wings of a distant woodpecker. After reviewing the images, the amateur … READ ON

FILM

Home for the Holidays

S. James Snyder on October Country

February 2010

FREED FROM THE CONSTRAINTS of chronology—and emboldened by an enviable degree of access—October Country positions a real family squarely under the microscope and then ratchets up the magnification. Codirector Donal Mosher is the family member… READ ON

FILM

Visual Poetry

S. James Snyder on A Room and a Half

January 2010

MOST MOVIES ABOUT HISTORY—whether personal or social—depict the past as an orderly string of highs and lows, every piece of the puzzle neatly adding up to a whole. But not A Room and a Half, Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s surrealistic half-fictional… READ ON

FILM

Flight of Fancy

S. James Snyder on Ricky

December 2009

A STIFF DOSE of domestic melodrama topped off with a head-spinning chaser of sci-fi horror, Ricky is a celebration of a conventional virtue (parenthood) that still manages to take the road less traveled. Katie (Alexandra Lamy) and Paco (Sergi… READ ON

FILM

A Walk to Remember

S. James Snyder on The Road

November 2009

THE PERFORMANCES MATCH THE LANDSCAPE: devastated and raw, deliberately unrefined. In The Road, we walk alongside an exhausted father and son as they traverse a gray, vaguely familiar hellscape. The father is prone to emotional outbursts, the… READ ON

FILM

Double Life

S. James Snyder on Night and Day

October 2009

AT FIRST BLUSH a routine tale of the infantile adult male struggling to overcome a repressed libido, Hong Sang-soo’s aptly titled Night and Day (2008) slowly strays from its surface pleasures to embark on a far more nuanced study of romance,… READ ON

FILM

Copy Cats

S. James Snyder on Art & Copy

August 2009

IT’S THE DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH that receive their due praise in Art & Copy, Doug Pray’s selective chronicling of evolutions in print and television advertising through the second half of the twentieth century. Navigating this pivotal period… READ ON

FILM