Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

An audio program about movies. Listen with your iPod or computer.

Plastic Podcast

The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

Other Recent Podcasts


Favorite Recent Tweets

via Twitter


Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.


Delphine Seyrig in Alain Resnais' Muriel

Bay Area film writer Brian Darr polls his fellow San Francisco cinephiles at the end of every year to gather a list of favorite repertory or revival screenings, and reading the entries is always a testament to how much film is available to see outside the house. It's also fun to participate, since it means looking over all the year's screenings that weren't eligible for any sort of awards, even though they're often the highlights of the year. As Brian says, "No two eyes can witness all the splendid film presentations that occur in a year here," and "[c]ollectively, these fifteen lists might provide a reasonably accurate view of the range and depth of cinematic experiences to be had for a Frisco Bay rep-head in 2008."

Here's my entry, and from there you can find the others.

I was extra lucky to participate this year since I was only in San Francisco through May. Still, it was hard to whittle my list to ten. As J. Robert Parks has shown, the offerings in Chicago are rich as well, and one of my resolutions is to take better advantage of them this year.

For more year-end list commentary, see 2008 in Negative.

Many critics have remarked that 2008 wasn’t the best year for movies. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, but I think it’s important to qualify the point. It was actually a strong year for strong films, but it was a weak year for great ones. I probably saw just as many movies this year that I could recommend, but I’ve struggled to fill out my Top 10. So instead of being bound by the round number of ten, I’ve decided to offer my Top 9 of 2008 and then list a whole bunch of other movies that could have easily been #10 but wouldn’t have come close to cracking the list in previous years. Am I cheating? How can I be when I’m the one keeping score?

A few general notes before I dive into the list. For consistency’s sake, I’m going by the policy of choosing films that played at least a week in New York. That’s the approach that most critics use, and it’s as good as any. Not that this makes everything clear. For example, many critics are including 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days on their 2008 list, while I had that as my #1 film of 2007. No, I’m not going to include it again, though the stats fiends may care to note it would be the #2 film of 2008 if I did. Similarly, it’s unclear whether Carlos Reygadas’s masterpiece Silent Light qualifies as a 2008 release. It played for a week at MOMA in New York, but it’s getting a traditional theatrical release in early ’09 and will hopefully make its way around the country. For reasons I won’t try to explain, I’ll leave it for ’09.

Continue Reading

Madhabi Mukherjee in Charulata

2008 began, for me, with Blade Runner and City Lights, and it ended with Bridge on the River Kwai. While the movies in between didn’t always reach those lofty heights, I saw a lot of great stuff in ’08. For better or worse, most of the truly great movies I saw last year were repertory films that played at theaters like the Music Box, the Siskel Film Center, and Doc Films. So I thought I’d lead off this year with the Top 10 Old Films of 2008. Don’t worry, though. I’ll get to the more traditional top 10 in a couple days. My only requirements for this list are that they played somewhere in Chicago and that I saw them for the first time last year. For fun, I’ve listed the theater where I saw each film.

1. Charulata (Doc Films)
One of the best movies I’ve seen anywhere in several years, this incredible “woman’s picture” from Satyajit Ray completely blew me away. A story of a wife who finds her own voice in writing, it’s an incredible portrait of both a woman and her marriage. While I enjoyed Ray’s Apu trilogy, nothing in that prepared for me for his incredible style in this film, which is full of tracking shots, spectacular lighting, and breathtaking freeze frames. Made in 1964, it’s clearly influenced by the French New Wave just as the Apu films owe much to Italian neo-realism. But Ray takes the playful New Wave-isms and joins them with his Bengali sensibilities to create a film that’s staggering in its accomplishments. A movie that I wanted to see again as soon as I left the theater and one I’ve been thinking about ever since.

Continue Reading

Tsai cheng-tai / IFC Films
Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon

Happy new year! I've posted my list of favorite films of 2008 at Paste, along with a bunch of extras and comments. Also, although the sequence isn't quite what I had in mind, I have a few more entries for our 2008 in Negative series to post over the next few days. I'd planned to push those out sooner, but the holidays got in the way.

Watch for J. Robert Parks to post his lists here at Daily Plastic soon.

Here's hoping 2009 brings everyone a little stability and brightness.

Merrick Morton / Paramount and Warner Bros.
Taraji P. Henson and Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
This is another in our series looking at year-end lists. series introduction and index

As the best-of-2008 lists begin to congeal around a certain body of films, the lists that attract my eye are of course the ones that contain outliers.

For instance: Kent Jones.

He likes Leos Carax and Claire Denis and Hou Hsiao-hsien; I've always appreciated his taste. Last year Hou's latest film, Flight of the Red Balloon, seemed to be underwhelming audiences at festivals (although not all of them) and then earlier this year seemed to slip into American theaters almost unnoticed, along with Wong Kar-Wai's My Blueberry Nights, as if it were not a remarkable turn of fortune for a long-revered, contemporary Asian master with historically limited success at finding distribution in the US to be screening a film at the art theater of many American downtowns. Jones was one of the film's champions, and I appreciated his efforts on the film's behalf. (How interesting that a year later, Flight of the Red Balloon has just topped the indieWIRE critics poll. Meanwhile, the dentists who vote for the Golden Globes have never heard of the guy.)

For 2008, Jones' list of favorite films is buried inside a special issue of Sight & Sound, but let me pull it out for perusal:

Continue Reading

Guy Ritchie, de-punctuator

From our discussion of the year in film, I must detour for a moment to examine the serious matter of titular ink.

The titles of most of the movies released this year had absolutely no punctuation, so adding even a tiny period, as Oliver Stone did, said something, don't you think? When he called his movie W. he said, hey (or perhaps look), this isn't M or Z or V or any such film. It's W., quaint as can be. In a title so short, even a period claims a good 8-10% of the title's ink, and that's not counting the serifs. The serifs matter. The period matters. This title smiles.

Looking back at the films of 2008, I can see that a punctational vision like Stone's was in short supply. Happy-Go-Lucky is sporting hyphens, sure, and Mamma Mia! is jacked up with an exclamation point, but think of how many more titles could be improved dramatically with a few well-placed marks.

Saw V!

But we must respect the ability of such a mark to alter a film's thrust, sometimes irrevocably. An errant drip of ink can turn I've Loved You So Long into a Dear John letter (I've Loved You; So Long), create an equivalence that did not exist before (Beverly Hills: Chihuahua), change a title into a Craigslist ad for a vacation rental (Lakeview, Terrace), turn an innocuous teen romp into a Hair ripoff (High: School Musical), or transform a phrase into a sequence of events (Sex, Drive).

Continue Reading

This is another in our series looking at various best-films-of-2008 lists that are appearing as we reach the holidays. series introduction and index

At the opposite end of some sort of rainbow from Roger Ebert is James Quandt, senior programmer of the Cinematheque Ontario and tireless scourer of the globe for lost prints of important films. His work often results in retrospectives that redefine a filmmaker's career or revive interest in forgotten masters. The prints he assembles, if we're lucky, work their way through the world's (too few) cinematheques, and if we're luckier still they end up on DVD, so I've been the indirect beneficiary of his efforts through many darkened screenings at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley and now a few at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

Plus, I've only seen three of the ten films on his list (or four of the eleven, depending on how you manage the tally), which is perfect. His list appears in Artforum and comes to us online via my friend Girish Shambu. Please click through to see Quandt's top ten films of 2008.

Value of the Unknown to a Festival Maven

Unlike Ebert's list, which for this active moviegoer elicits a string of yays and nays but very little action, Quandt's list has a different impact: it goes, almost in its entirety, onto my "films to see" list.

Continue Reading

This is the first in our series looking at various best-films-of-2008 lists that are appearing as we reach the holidays. series introduction and index

Roger Ebert. He's a film critic of the people and a fan of good movies. He watches a lot of them, and he writes with enviable energy. He's also firmly in touch with the mainstream even as he keeps a toe or two invested in more adventurous films. So his list seems like a fine place to begin.

This year, instead of ranking ten films sequentially he chose to identify twenty features, five documentaries, and one special jury prize, sorting each group alphabetically. Another reason his list is a good place to start is that I've seen all of these films. First, take a look at his list and read his remarks.

He chose the following features (listed alphabetically):

Continue Reading

Every year, the lists. Lists lists lists.

And with each one comes trouble. For example, do we include films that we saw this year or films that were released this year? And how do you define "released?" Rules rules rules.

But more interesting than legalities are the inevitable philosophical problems. For instance, if my list omits a film that many other respected film watchers and blabbermouths have included on their best-of lists, does that mean I didn't like it or didn't see it?

I could answer that question in the accompanying remarks, but even an informative didn't-see-it seems to reinforce the year-end canon, a brick in the wall that keeps out the little movies that few people saw. Bricks. Walls. Slippery slides into oblivion. Make your own metaphor.

There's no solution, of course, but let's see if we can think of a new way to examine the field. Daily Plastic wasn't around last year, but with any luck this will become our tradition: we're going to dig into a number of year-end lists that we find interesting, one by one, day by day, and we'll examine not what they've left out (which will be covered implicitly by our own year-end lists) but by what they've included.

It's "2008 in Negative," not negative as an attitude but negative as a bas-relief.

At the end of the series we'll reveal our own favorites of 2008. I like to eject mine from the movie Jeep as the ball drops on New Year's Eve; my Plastic colleague J. Robert Parks prefers to mull the options well into January. Until then, we'll look at the early birds, the canaries in the mine.

And finally, our own lists: