Category: Blog

Films Seen 3/12 – 4/8

In Search of Israeli Cuisine (2017), Roger M. Sherman, C-
Drib (2017), Kristoffer Borgli, B+
Porto (2017), Gabe Klinger, B-
The Most Hated Woman In America (2017), Tommy O’Haver, C
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017), Macon Blair, B-
The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017), Niki Caro, C
A Quiet Passion (2017), Terence Davies, A-
Kong: Skull Island (2017), Jordan Vogt-Roberts, B
King Kong (1977), John Guillermin, B
The Unbelievers (2013), Gus Holwerda, C
The Burmese Harp (1956), Kon Ichikawa, A-
Bent (1997), Sean Mathias, B
Tower (2016), Keith Maitland, A-
Holy Air (2017), Shady Srour, B-
The Wedding Plan (2017), Rama Burstein, C
The Boss Baby (2017), Tom McGrath, C+
Ghost in the Shell (2017), Rupert Sanders, B-
Predator (2017), John McTiernan, B
Twin Peaks: Pilot (1990), David Lynch, A-
Eraserhead (1977), David Lynch, A
Mulholland Drive (2000), David Lynch, A-
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2017), John Scheinfeld, C+
The Mother and the Whore (1973), Jean Eustache, A-
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick, A+
Graduation (2017), Cristian Mungiu, A
The Memory of Justice (1976), Marcel Ophuls, A
ARQ (2016), Tony Elliot, D
Chicken Ranch (1983), Nick Broomfield and Sandi Sissel, B

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like Ghost in the Shell?

I was not assigned to review “Ghost in the Shell” but I went to the all-media press screening for it anyway.
I liked it.
Bottom line: I liked it, and if you like weird sci-fi and drowning in a swirl of bold, beautiful imagery, I recommend buying a ticket and seeing it at a good theater. (Not the AMC at Kip’s Bay which had the masking wrong, cropping some of the subtitles.)
I found the plot completely incomprehensible, but that’s my memory of the original, too. My enjoyment of this film was entirely on the surface but that is not necessarily a bad thing. We need pretty things to look at and this movie has that to the nth degree. Truly, I liked the movie.
But the whitewashing is 100% screwed up.
“Ghost in the Shell,” after “Akira,” is the most famous anime ever made. (For adults. Not “Voltron” or “Battle of the Planets” or that “Dragonball” jazz the kids talk about.) The main character is a robot (a shell, if you will) and you can make all the post-human and post-racial arguments you want, but those arguments are founded on bullshit. The movie is Japanese, the character is Japanese.
I like Scarlett Johansson a great deal. From “Ghost World” to “Under the Skin” she’s dynamite. Have you seen “Scoop”? She’s great in “Scoop.”
She’s terrible in this. A snooze. She’s a vessel for a tight outfit. (A shell, if you will.) You can argue that, well, she’s a blank slate, she’s supposed to be vacant. That argument is founded on bullshit. I’m telling you, I love her, and she adds nothing to this movie.
Director Rupert Sanders, who shows visual flair in abundance, can’t direct young women actors. His last movie, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” had me convinced that Kristen Stewart should retire. Oh, thank God she didn’t listen to me, as her post-SWATH career is one of the most exciting in the current cinema.
So here’s the thing: they had to cast a White Chick for monetary reasons, right? I say, again, this is an argument founded on bullshit.
Decades ago big motion pictures would have a title card that read “And introducing.” Like, I dunno, Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia.” How is it that we live in a world with no borders (and where very expensive movies can recoup on Asian markets alone) and we can’t have a “Ghost in the Shell” that introduces some new Japanese star?
The draw for this movie is not Scarlett Johansson. It is the brand name of the title and it is the look of the film. (Again, bravo to Sanders and everyone on the production design team. You all did great.) You can still cut a great TV ad without ScarJo in this. Imagine the good will of using this internationally-known property to deliver us a new worldwide star.
And here’s the best part: she doesn’t even need to be talented! All Scarlett does in this movie is jump around athletically, pout, look quizzical and wear skin-tight clothes! Is there no young woman in Japan who is lithe and buxom and wants to be in front of a camera?
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about objectification of women in cinema ….

Films Seen 2/12 – 3/12

Hidden Figures (2016), Theodore Melfi, B-
Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen, A+
Fist Fight (2017), Richie Keen, B+
Ben-Gurion, Epilogue (2017), Yariv Mozer, A-
Logan (2017), James Mangold, B+
Everyone Else (2010), Maren Ade, B
The Lego Batman Movie (2017), Chris McKay, B-
A Man Called Ove (2016), Hannes Holm, C-
Land of Mine (2017), Martin Pieter Zandvliet, C+
The Salesman (2017), Asghar Farhadi, B
Get Out (2017), Jordan Peele, B+
Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Mel Gibson, F
The Settlers (2016), Shimon Dotan, B+
Song to Song (2017), Terrence Malick, A-
Kundun (1997), Martin Scorsese, B
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Martin Scorsese, A
Shane (1953), George Stevens, B
Table 19 (2017), Jeffrey Blitz, D
Kiki (2017), Sara Jordenö, B
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017), Joseph Cedar, A
Junction 48 (2017), Udi Aloni, C
Fados (2007), Carlos Sauda, B
Colossal (2017), Nacho Vigalondo, B+
The Devils (1971), Ken Russell, B+
Raw (2017), Julia Ducournau, A-
The Sense of an Ending (2017), Ritesh Batra, B-
Mysteries of Lisbon (2010), Raúl Ruiz, B

Maggie Roche, 1951-2017

The news cycle is so bonkers right now that the death of Maggie Roche didn’t cut above the noise for me for almost an entire month. Roche (in center of above pic, flanked by her sisters Suzzy and Terre) died recently, age 65, from cancer. Jon Parales wrote a very nice obituary in the New York Times.
This is quite a significant loss for New York, for music and for a specific type of, oh, how do I say this the right way, the 92nd St Y Lifestyle.
The Roches were never big stars, but they were fairly ubiquitous at just around the time I came to New York, which was the early 1990s. I was listening to a lot of Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and going to the Bottom Line. That’s a radio show and club that don’t exist anymore.
What I’ve been lately getting my head around is how damn lucky I was to have my interests at that time in this city. There was an exceptional thing happening in independent film (as has been greatly discussed and analyzed) but also a very slight uptick in the commercial viability in singer-songwriter acts.
I don’t listen to this sort of thing much anymore these days, and when I do it’s the new Richard Thompson album because he also shreds and wails on the guitar. (He does.) But I don’t know if anyone is making music like Maggie, Terre and Suzzy right now. Very doubtful.
Also important: the Roches were hella funny. Their debut as a trio (at a fundraiser for Bill Bradley’s Senate campaign!!) was introduced by Chevy Chase, and they were very tied into that SNL/Paul Schaffer world. They once “guest starred” on Tiny Toons Adventures (because they were roaches!) and they played their goofy “get-to-know-us” number “We.” Suzzy Roche acted in Joan Micklin Silver’s Upper West Side cri-de-coeur “Crossing Delancey,” granting her even more honorary Jewess status. (Believe me, all three sisters had it already; Maggie and Terre Roche’s first gig was singing backup for Paul Simon.)
Anyway, Maggie was the eldest, and now she’s gone.
There are a few good live performances of the Roches floating around on YouTube, but after poking around I’ve decided to embed this studio version of probably their best known song, which was one that Maggie wrote. If that guitar style sounds familiar, that is, indeed, Robert Fripp, who produced this album.

Behold, the new

Hello, and welcome to the new and improved began as a spot for my musings in late 2003 and it’s been pretty quiet around here for quite some time.
The last few years this website’s main purpose has been for my own record keeping, jotting down letter grades on all the movies I’d seen.
But no more! Mach 2 serves multiple purposes!
For starters, I am very much a (clears throat) FREELANCE WRITER and, as such, I’m always looking to work for new outlets. Are you, in fact, an assigning editor at Outlet X or literary agent of some sort, and you’d like to get in touch? That’s what the “Contact” link is all about.
Not sure about Hoffman? Hopefully the highlighted articles in the “Selected Work” tab will put you over the top. That’s where I’ve linked to my best stuff. (You can also dig deep into my personal history at “About Me.”)
As my reviews and articles are published I’ll link to them from the Recent Work tab. This way when you see me you don’t have to say “hey, did you ever review Suchandsuch Movie?” You can just come to and all your problems will be solved.
Same deal with my recent podcast episodes.
For those that can’t get enough of my opinions, I’ve got some good news: I’m bringin’ blogging back. Threaded tweets are lame (and there’s no way to edit them.) I hereby state that from this day forth my half-baked, 2am, semi-coherent angry thoughts are gonna go here, on my blog where they belong. Don’t worry, I’ll still slap a link to ’em on Twitter. Also, more stuff about the music I like.
The decade-plus of old material still exists, don’t worry. Lots of photos and rants about movies and music and politics in the archives (scroll down, look on the right, toggle by month.) Plus you can always hit search. If you remember a funny story about me drinking too much in Staten Island in 2007, you can still find it with a little rooting around.
Thanks for reading.



Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

Follow me on Twitter