“The representation of mental illness in art is fraught with the tension inherent to any profoundly shattering human phenomenon. Like death or war, insanity is a reality rich and storied enough to support the trappings of a broad range of genres and aesthetic choices: slapstick straight jacket gags and terrifying visions of the mind’s hinterlands are borne with equal aplomb. But even in the most beautiful, strange and sympathetic renderings of mental illness (the paintings of Francisco Goya, say, or the poetry of John Berryman), it is hard to escape a certain entrenched taxonomy of representation.”
What About Bob? And My Bad Years by Dustin Illingworth.

As far as I knew, no one knew about Return to Oz [1985]. I can’t even recall an origin story, how the movie actually showed up in my hands. My sister claims we just found the VHS somewhere, maybe in an overlooked bin, at some video store that may have been Blockbuster. I do remember looking at the cover and knowing immediately that I wanted it. We went home and watched it. And watched it again. And watched it again. And watched it. Again.

This is an Oz you might unfamiliar with. The film begins with Dorothy Gale—the same Dorothy character previously played by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, but now played by a younger Fairuza Balk—shortly after her return to Kansas. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are growing concerned with Dorothy’s inability to sleep, and what they see as her obsessive delusions, this odd fixation on a place she’s created in her head. In order to help cure her, they bring her to a mental institution to be treated overnight via electroshock therapy. It’s nighttime, it’s raining, and Dorothy can hear the howls of other patients in pain.

This unexpected premise resonated with me as a child. At that age, I felt just as Dorothy did—misunderstood to the point of feeling like an alien, finding home only in imagined worlds. I was brought to see a psychiatrist for similar reasons. Why this obsession with the imagined? Where was reality? I was always more concerned with my inner world than socializing with the other kids around me. So prone to fantasy, I hardly even noticed my peers. In pictures, always looked both meek and haunted. My eyes darted elsewhere.

“Yet, Midnight Cowboy fails—and why? Because elsewhere, Schlesinger seems to undermine Salt rather than collaborate with him. Salt has great love for his characters and finds thematic directness and purity in the way he constructs scenes (as he would find again in Serpico and Coming Home, films he wrote for directors—Sidney Lumet and Hal Ashby, respectively—whose visual styles were also direct and pure). Schlesinger, however, was an experimental filmmaker at heart, and in Midnight Cowboy, he fractures the narrative wherever possible. Joe’s history in Texas gets presented in evocative glimpses—a blond woman rocking young Joe, men breaking into a car while Joe has sex with a woman, et cetera—making pretentious what, in Herlihy’s novel, is merely banal and longwinded. (Take your pick between those two artistic sins, I suppose.) There’s a jarring moment early in the film of diegetic sound becoming alien when Joe (and, therefore, the film) visualizes a series of women he hears as voices on a radio. It’s stylistically cool, perhaps, but also pointless, and it establishes Schlesinger’s approach as a director: to fuck with things that ought to be left alone. As such, Schlesinger strives to make Midnight Cowboy an “art film,” with the surreal fragments of Joe’s past; the mixing of fact and fiction (i.e., involving Warhol’s Factory stars in the action at the hilariously dated hipster party); and the indefensibly silly sequence where Ratso imagines Florida, including wheelchair-bound old women chasing him into a pool.”
Adapting To Film: Midnight Cowboy by Benjamin Rybeck.
Boyhood borrows from Jonathan Lethem’s seminal novel The Fortress of Solitude in that it relies on period songs, throughout the film, to allude to precisely which year we are in, and while this is historically admirable it gets a bit stale after a while (the songs function more as markers for era than as songs themselves, with the result that the music rarely adds to the mood—it’s as if the songs are data points).”
“Later, on Cedar Rapids, John C. Reilly will shout insults in my general direction as I dance at a lesbian wedding. Later, on Gifted Hands, I will be made to sprint to set because NO ONE is allowed to arrive after Cuba. Later, on American Virgin, I will not be eligible when they ask for girls willing to flash the camera. I’d wanted to be involved in filmmaking since I was a kid, but somehow I was 25 and I was just now taking the tiniest steps in that direction. I had worked for the past two years in Residence Life at Interlochen, an arts boarding school near Traverse City, and had gotten some free film education by helping out with their Motion Picture Arts Department. My sister is a professor at Eastern Michigan University, which is not far from Detroit, and I was staying with her for just a few weeks before perhaps making the whole LA mistake. I was sleeping in the basement of the house that she and her husband shared with their four cats, and I was already feeling like an imposition. Somehow I’d socked away about fifteen grand from my previous job, but my fear of watching it dwindle sent me to do pickup construction work most days. I’d visited LA the summer before in an attempt to inspire myself to take the plunge. I was scared but determined. At about that time, Michigan passed the most generous filmmaking tax incentives of any state in the country, and suddenly I believed in fate again. Either that, or I’d just been looking for anything to help me chicken out of moving to the other side of the country with no real prospects for success.”
“I’ve gotta get out of here, the protagonist decides, for the first time or maybe the fiftieth, taking stock of his humdrum town, suburban conformity, whatever he thinks is getting him down. The particulars of the prison are irrelevant; it’s the escape that matters. Someone—a friend or a rival, maybe just his own nagging self-doubt—bets against him: you’ll never go through with it. You’re not the type. But what none of the characters realize is that he’s exactly the type: bored, unsatisfied, greedy for new territory, if not to take for his own then to explore as if it were. American.”
On The Road Again by Roxie Pell.
“But Fight Club was never a fairytale. It’s a painful howl into a night that probably isn’t listening and that is more a cry of pain than a drive to hurt. When a bunch of confused, angry, and sad men bond together, first to fight one another, then to indiscriminately terrorize an entire city, we are meant to feel uncomfortable. We are also meant to feel uncomfortable by the fact that, for a little while, Tyler Durden’s diatribes did seem interesting and seductive.”
“Since 2006, as the surgeries (salivary, thyroid cancer) have robbed from Roger (speech, voice, food), I’ve found him hard to view. I hated my weakness. Today, I don’t blink. Gauze scarfs what remains of his chin, jaw, throat—anatomy so essential it’s hard to make a face without it Childhood flashback: an industrious boy flinging newspapers. On screen, I see University of Illinois for the first time. I never visited a college. I never partied in a dorm; rarely did I party.”
The Rumpus Review of Life Itself by Joanna Novak!
“Mood Indigo is like watching the death of imagination through the colorful lens of a fast-paced, surreal love story.”
The Rumpus Review of Mood Indigo by N. David Pastor
“Spoiler alert: nothing really happens, and as a viewer conditioned by the tropes of Hollywood pomp, it felt like the coming-of-age conversion never truly came. Episodic progressions bleed from one to the next, and music seems to be used mostly to indicate how time and culture have progressed. Early Coldplay (“Yellow”), Britney Spears (“Oops! I Did It Again”), Gnarls Barkley (“Crazy”), Soulja Boy (“Crank That”), and Gotye (“Somebody That I Used to Know”) all make the cut.”
The Rumpus Review Of Boyhood by Kenny Ng.