Hello new and regular visitors to Flaw In The Iris. Thank you for stopping by.
If you’ve been checking out my reviews for awhile, you’ll notice new banners rotating at the top of the page.
Though the name of the blog is inspired by a line of dialogue from Chinatown, and the image of Jack Nicholson with his nose bandaged will be the prime image on the site, I’ve chosen a few new images to represent the breadth of the kinds of movies I like to watch — brand new feature films from Hollywood and around the world, and movies from the past, some of which I talk about on the film podcast, LENS ME YOUR EARS, with Stephen Cooke.
I’ve chosen a few images of performers who I most admire, actors whose presence in a film immediately make me curious about it — Jefferey Wright, Kristen Stewart, Viola Davis, Tony Leung, Richard E Grant, Rosamund Pike, and Mads Mikkelsen.
Also on a banner is an image of Robert Mitchum in Night Of The Hunter, one of my favourite movies — it inspired the name of a radio programme I used to host from 2005 to 2009 called The Love & Hate Movie Show. And there’s a still from Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, a largely unrecognized classic, with Colin Farrell and Gong Li making their way to Havana.
Many thanks to Kate and Michael for this new feature. They run Halifax Bloggers, and make everything on the site work so well.
About the Triangles
If you’ve been reading reviews from 2022 you’ll have also noticed I’ve brought back the five triangle rating system: ▲▲▲△△
I started it back in 2016 to see if along with reviews I could provide ratings to the films I was seeing. At first it was a fun challenge, but I swiftly found it too reductive, restrictive, and frustrating. I kept wanting to bring in half triangles as a more exacting measurement, but eventually gave up the whole effort.
But wanting this blog to be more helpful to even a casual reader, I figured this was one, relatively easy way to do it. Sure, there’ll be three triangle movies that are high threes and four triangle movies that are low fours, but the triangles provide an overall grade, an impression, of what I thought of it.
A ▲△△△△ rating is a bad movie, one that fails in some or all of what it’s trying to do. Maybe it just pissed me off.
I really love watching movies so I’ll only award a single ▲if I felt like my time was wasted, which thankfully happens only once or twice a year, fortunately. I’ve also got a tag I provide those movies: The Worst. (You can find it under the Film Culture pulldown menu.)
(I’ve actually never awarded a movie no triangles, or △△△△△. How bad a movie could that be? I hope I never find out.)
A ▲▲△△△rating is a disappointment, but has something good about it. Maybe a scene or two that works, a technical element or an idea that clicks, even if overall I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend it. A deeply flawed movie that might be worth seeing by the completists who love a certain cast member or filmmaker.
As they say on the excellent Empire Film Podcast, a three star rating is a recommendation, and that’s what I’d say about a ▲▲▲△△.
I’d give three triangles to a genre picture that engages the requirements of its style but doesn’t supersede it. It’s a film with a good heart and good intentions, while not being one I’m liable to watch a second time. It’s a first feature by a promising director that does what it set out to do. It’s a picture rooted by a solid, maybe even sterling performance that sustains and elevates it above the average.
A ▲▲▲▲△ rating is a very fine film. All its parts are working in most, if not all departments — from script, to performances, direction, sound, and cinematography — and it has emotional elements that stay with you after the film ends. If you see it alone you end up talking to friends about it afterward, encouraging them to see it. If I’ve seen a four triangle film, it’s a good day. This is a picture that may be counted as one the year’s best when December rolls around.
I’ll very rarely give a ▲▲▲▲▲ rating. I might not award a five triangle rating to a year’s best films. These excellent pictures tend to reveal themselves after a second or third viewing, with a little time. Every once in awhile I might be so floored by a cinematic experience I’d award it a five-triangle rating on the spot. I can think of a handful where I would have anointed it immediately had I been handing out these ratings at the time: Mad Max: Fury Road, Under The Skin, and Inception,
And while I’d likely give this rating to many, if not most, of the films on my lists of the Best Films of the past decade, many of them I might not have recognized how good they were the first time I watched them.
Why Flaw In The Iris?
This is an inexact science, and that’s another reason I called this blog Flaw In The Iris. I want to recognize the imperfection, the baked-in inadequacy, of my consideration of art. The fractured subjectivity of it all.
This is a collection of opinions of one person, someone whose only genuine credentials are he watches a whole lot of movies and has since he was a kid. I could be anybody, and I’m prone to mistakes as much as the next person. I even change my mind.
Having worked in film production, I know the extraordinary effort it takes to get a film made, how many parts have to happen just for it to exist, and how difficult it is to make one good. I do my best to celebrate that achievement, while also offering a guide to the ones that are miraculous for also being good. Which is why I’m always hoping for the best of a film even as I give my honest assessment.
I write Flaw In The Iris mostly for myself — it’s a largely selfish exercise. I do it because it extends the life of a film in my mind.
As James Covey, my fellow programmer at Carbon Arc Cinema once said, you experience a movie twice: Once when watching it, and then a second time as you walk from the cinema and roll it over in your mind. With FITI, I’m aiming to experience it a third time as I do my best to express how I felt about it.
It also does me some good to have this collection of reviews online as my memory can fail me. After thousands of reviews, it’s easy to find a few where I have no recollection of ever having seen it, let alone written about it.
And in that, I get to experience it again for the first time. It’s a message to me about an experience I had years ago and if it sounds good, maybe I’ll watch it again!
At its best, I think a film review like those found here can excite the reader about possibly seeing a film minutes earlier they didn’t know much about. That’s why I’m always going to prefer writing a rave over an obloquy. I’m always looking for the best in a film, even when I’m disappointed.
At the very least, a review should further the conversation about the art and craft of filmmaking as a storytelling medium. I firmly believe that half the pleasure of going to the movies is talking about it afterward in a community that feels as strongly as I do that it’s important.
That’s what Flaw In The Iris is about.
Thanks again for reading. See you at the movies.