12 thoughts on “Kelefa Sanneh for The New Yorker: “The Best Defense: Money and morals in the Fight of the Century”

    • Quality article, let me know what you think.

      Editing is going fine, thanks. Still a ways to go, as well as a couple of reshoots to do in the coming weeks. This short film may not end up so short after all!

      Seen any interesting films lately? I dont know if I mentioned Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence to you already, but it’s a documentary companion piece to his equally brilliant The Act of Killing, both on the subject of the Indonesian genocide and its lingering effect. I couldn’t recommend these two films more highly.

      Other recent viewing: Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town; Pedro Costa’s Ossos; Glauber Rocha’s Black God, White Devil; and Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo. Impressed by the first 3, not by the Sorrentino film however.

      Also, your thoughts on True Detective season 2, if you’ve seen any?

      Showtime dont have much worthwhile boxing on these days (Chavez Jr. missing weight & looking terrible again this past weekend), but at least they have ‘The Affair’. Recently watched season one. Terrific show, featuring a couple of impressive turns from The Wire alumni.

      • Intriguing to hear about your film. So, somewhere between a short and a feature, then? You must have found more usable material than expected. Bravo, not surprised at all to hear it. Are you working with the same cinematographer?

        Oppenheimer’s work has been on my radar for a long time. I believe the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was the one I first saw championing it — sounds powerful and deeply brave, absolutely up my alley. Indonesia’s suffering, in fact, is at the center of The Trials of Henry Kissinger, Eugene Jarecki’s 2002 film. I saw it recently and was mildly impressed; it had little I did not already know about the odious Kissinger, but it is a decent effort at reexamining a history that (over here, at least) has been stuffed down the memory hole. Watching it required holding my nose, as it is closely based on work by Christopher Hitchens. The ink had barely dried on Hitchens’s j’accuse — which I read when it appeared — before he transformed himself into one of the loudest apologists for our most recent wars. Having symbolically killed Henry, he felt free to become him. In the film he appears as if in amber, decrying Machiavellian values in the sort of civilian catastrophe he would very shortly be angrily dismissing.

        A busy summer (house projects, family reunion) has kept me from seeing very much else, I’m afraid. Your list is filled with titles I don’t even recognize! Onto my list they go. Looked over some imagery from Black God, White Devil — very appealing, put me in mind of Buñuel and Jodorowsky.

        I’ve been following True Detective season two, though. And I like it. Pizzolatto was always going to have a hard time upstaging his marvelous debut, but comparisons aside, I really care for his themes and concerns. He thinks and writes ambitiously. There aren’t many creators like him let loose inside our cinema who set out to dissect how our society works, although once we could boast very great talents (Friedkin, Coppola and other 70s luminaries; the almost hydra-like talent pool in 40s and 50s film noir; guys who were blacklisted or drummed out in the Cold War). I’m surprised Justin Lin has proved such a good director of this material. A friend who had some professional involvement in the Fast and Furious silliness always told me Lin was good (I wouldn’t see it, much to his annoyance lol).

        Haven’t caught any of The Affair but have been tempted to have a look in for Dominic West, so memorable in The Wire. Oh, on a neighbor’s recommendation I also saw the first four episodes of the new Snowden-inspired antihero series, Mr Robot. For three episodes, I was deeply impressed. The Kubrick-inspired titles (when the house construction falls quiet around here I have been perusing my Kubrick Archives, haha) are icing on the cake. The show runner has now handed off writing and directing and it’s sadly turned very ordinary.

      • Different crew entirely actually, but it’s my own visual sensibility that’s at play, so I think you’ll see correlations with Winter. It’ll end up more of a long short I’d say, probably over 30 minutes…though I will probably have to do an alternate 15min edit for potential festival screenings.

        Hitchens is a strange case, I love most of his frequently-hilarious rants & god help anyone who ever had to enter a public debate with the man, but the pro-Iraq war stance of his final years was curious. You will love Oppenheimer’s work, executive produced incidentally by Herzog and Errol Morris.

        Rocha is little known in the West but he is Brazil’s foremost director and has been cited as an influence by Scorsese. I had the thought while watching Black God that it was like a Western with a Jodorowsky script, co-directed by Herzog and Pasolini haha. In fact, Jodorowsky praised Rocha’s Antonio das Mortes & I’ve read it was a likely influence on El Topo.

        I mentioned Costa to you before and he is an esoteric arthouse staple from Portugal. Ossos was the first of his films I saw, however, I attended a screening of his latest film at the last Dublin Film Festival, only for the projection to falter miserably due to technical issues with a bemused Costa present. Embarrassing for the festival, but he did give a lengthy Q and A anyway. It’s just a pity I hadn’t seen any of his work at that point!

        Watched Amat Escalante’s Heli last night. Escalante is a protege of one of my favourites, Carlos Reygadas, and Heli won best director at Cannes a few years ago. Recommended & very strong visually.

        Spring in a Small Town is a delicate drama in the Ozu/Mizoguchi mode and was apparently voted best Chinese film ever in a past poll.

        I wish I shared your enthusiasm for season 2. For me, it’s a major disappointment thus far. Vaughn woefully miscast, a labyrinthine plot, pretentious dialogue & cliches galore. The Twin Peaks-esque bar scenes also don’t fit for me, and I’ve had more than enough already of Kitsch glowering one-dimensionally at the camera.

        There have been high points: ends of episodes 3 and 4, and it’s funny that I’m still oddly excited every week for the new episode. Love the Leonard Cohen theme song also.

        I was not high up on Lin’s direction of the first two episodes (lol @ your dismissal of the Furious franchise) and felt things improved once the experienced hired-hand tv directors took his place. The scathing parody of Fukunaga in episode 3 (the Asian-American director character with the ponytail) also lends credence to rumoured lingering tension between Pizzolatto and his brilliant foil of season 1.

        Funny you mention Friedkin, as he was rumoured to have a directorial role in season 2…there’s still 3 episodes to go, so fingers crossed.

        For all my misgivings, I still think it may conclude on a high-note & I admire Pizzolatto’s balls and ambition.

  1. Keen to check out Costa, Escalante and Reygadas. I have a vacation ahead during which I can follow up on more of your tips. Your recommendation for Ceylan is the best I’ve had in ages.

    True Detective: yeah, I am somewhat more tolerant of Pizzolatto’s dialogue. It’s pushing limits, some phrases clunk. Where I think it’s broken this time, as opposed to last season, is that he no longer has a foil for his ubermensch figure — no Woody Harrelson on hand as eye-rolling redneck Greek chorus. If much of what McConaughey was given to say was intellectually adventurous verging on outrageous, the groans of his aw-shucks partner were amusing and grounding.

    Though I must say when he does naturalism, his ear is perfect. Check out the fight scene in the rear of the club, where the grillz-wearing gangsta sneers at Vince Vaughn: “Yeah, I know. You put them crazy eyes on and everybody’s supposed to shit their pants. Thing is, you ain’t that thing no more what you used to was.” Used to was! There’s an entire critique in that lingo.

    Didn’t know a thing about the Pizz-Fukunaga feud, nor did I realize that was a parody. Cheers for that. I too have been waiting to see if Friedkin would appear. Admittedly my heart sank when I saw not his name but Lin’s on the credits. I gather the show runner in this case is an ur-director of his own material; not an enviable gig for the guy putatively put in charge of the set.

    Regarding Hitch: terribly formidable once. Too much booze; too much time among elite sadists. We grew accustomed to seeing him in his declining years shoulder-to-shoulder with the very worst this society has to offer — think tank Dr. Strangelove crackpots, Washington supercreeps, Murdoch’s hit squads, crowds of bellicose privileged frat boys (not gung-ho to fight themselves, no; keen to send the lower orders off to fight). George Galloway beat him from pillar to post in their 2005 debate which produced an insult for the ages. He noted Hitch’s brave opposition in the 90s to the first Gulf War, against much hostile pressure, and contrasted it to the present zealotry.

    “What you have witnessed since then is something unique in natural history: the first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug.”

    • It’s my pleasure to pass on recommendations to a fellow cinephile. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I have.

      I agree completely that this season lacks a sobering Greek chorus figure. Harrelson’s acting was masterful, and another thing this season suffers from is all the characters being too similar. When you have four darkly-sketched, vice-ridden characters with troubled pasts, it gets a bit samey.

      The dialogue may have been decent in that fight scene, but the fight itself was terribly unconvincing to me, particularly due to Vaughn’s performance. I struggle to take him seriously as a figure of menace. One of my friends (exaggeratedly) described it as the worst scene he’s ever seen in tv or movie history haha

      Still, I can’t help but look forward to tonight’s episode #6…

      Yes, that’s the thing in tv-land: the showrunner pulls the artistic strings. I believe Michael Mann demanded that showrunner David Milch not be on set while he was directing the Luck pilot. Fukunaga clearly deserves a lot of credit for much of season 1’s brilliance though & someone like him or Lin would obviously be more involved in the meaning-making process than your standard TV hired-hand directors. I believe Pizzolatto will end up directing movies at some point.

      Thanks for the Hitch insight. I must find footage of that Galloway debate. I know little of Galloway, but the image I have of him is pretending to lap milk from a woman’s cupped hands during his embarrassing stint on the Celebrity Big Brother reality show haha

      Mayweather-Berto now likely for PPV after CBS financials couldn’t be worked out. That will surely bomb.

      In better news, Golovkin-Lemieux finalized for October. Pleasantly surprised and surely made possible by decision to put the fight on HBO PPV, which will ensure Lemieux a big payday. Doesn’t affect me in Ireland, where it won’t be PPV, so I’m just delighted it’s been signed.

  2. Lol @ your line about Galloway “pretending to lap milk from a woman’s cupped hands.” I’d heard of his buffoonery there (and elsewhere). I don’t like everything about him; his fondness for the limelight reminds me of other messianic figures, the late Hitch included. But for honesty about the human catastrophe of imperialism he is as fearless and eloquent as they come. This Hardtalk episode pits him against one of the BBC’s feral poodles:

    I really like your point about the veritable Gidrah of protagonists on True Detective. “When you have four darkly-sketched, vice-ridden characters with troubled pasts, it gets a bit samey.” True dat, detective!

    How much chance do you give Lemieux? I wouldn’t be surprised if he wobbled or hurt GGG before being stopped. The common opponent of Rubio occurred at very different stages in the Mexican fighter’s career, and it’s an understatement to say Rubio was well-traveled by the time he met and was destroyed by Golovkin. So for comparison, I’m not making much of Rubio’s earlier stoppage of Lemieux. I’m impressed by the Canadian’s courage — and maybe a bit suspicious of Golden Boy’s interest in the fight. If they thought he was a long-term money maker, wouldn’t they hope to keep him standing upright a bit longer? Maybe it’s already cash out time.

    Speaking of cash-outs, Mayweather-Berto or Mosley-Margarito: which PPV is the best way to ruin a night?

    • Will watch that Hardtalk video soon. Thanks.

      Thought TD episode 6 was the best so far. The season is building towards a good conclusion & the episode even featured a good performance from Vaughn.

      Forgive my ignorance, but what does “Gidrah” mean? Your comments are often a welcome lesson in vocabulary haha

      I too am surprised by GB allowing Lemieux to take this fight so soon. The reason has to be financial, as I had guessed at least a couple of hometown defences would precede a unification/GGG suicide mission.

      I dont give him much chance but he’s probably the best GGG opponent thus far, and, in my view, the one with the most chance of causing the upset because of his raw power. His only hope is landing that left hook hard on Golovkin’s chin, which isn’t that difficult to find most of the time. The Rubio fight isn’t very relevant now I agree, but Lemieux’s chin is questionable.

      Haha, I think you mean Mosley-Mayorga II, which is actually maybe even a worse prospect than a Margarito rematch! I’m skeptical the fight happens, but if it does, the ludicrous $50 pricetag (and clashing with Mares-Santa Cruz on basic cable) will ensure very low buys. Dan Rafael estimated less than 25k.

      It’s on Boxnation for no extra cost over here, and, god help me, I’ll be watching like the boxing masochist I am haha

  3. Ghidorah, as I should have spelled it:

    Bad enough Japanese movie monsters are on my mind at all lol.

    Yes, I did mean Mayorga not Margarito. Good lord, my concentration: I plead a case of the protracted house renovation blues. Dealing with all the minutiae week after week has been a lobotomy with sawdust. I swear the higher we raise the roof the more it lowers my IQ.

    Good to hear TD is on track — I am an episode or two behind you. Much as I like it, it’s hard not to be critical when last year’s work was spellbinding. Oddly for a dark procedural, this time there’s little dread. I’m more interested in the emotional dynamics in subplots than in the McGuffin of evil cultic prostitution-murder-land-swindle-stolen-millions-etc. I’d rather see Colin Farrell burning in his parental custody hell than follow the detectives up to the next crime scene. That can’t be right. (Farrell might be the best actor in the cast. When his mouth twists in agony after being told the truth about his wife’s assailant, he brings to mind Laura Dern in Blue Velvet watching as a delirious Isabella Rossellini staggers out of the darkness nude, screaming at Kyle McLachlan, “Love me!” and offering, by way of explanation to the shattered girlfriend, “He put his disease in me.”)

    “… and, god help me, I’ll be watching like the boxing masochist I am haha” Boxing masochists, unite! Btw, I had a look in at Mosley’s Twitter feed. It’s a mid-life crisis whenever he boots the computer. Beyond shouting matches with anyone who questions him, he actually has a sideline in grooming fans into mega-fans. He tells those seeking a free pair of his autographed boxing gloves they’ll have to show the required amount of love first if they want to qualify. And no slacking off in worship, either — Sugar knows who’s sincere!

    • Haha the breadth of your references continues to impress! The renovation sounds like a big job, hope it’s going well.

      Something tells me you’re going to enjoy episode 6…Farrell is #1 for me too, and love your comparison with that classic Blue Velvet scene.

      Haha, twitter actually temporarily took away his ‘blue tick’ verification after his initial outbursts. I got into a back and forth with him the other week after grilling him on his BALCO EPO admission post-Oscar rematch. Unsurprisingly, many of his sycophant fans backed their man in predictably asinine fashion, labelling me a “hater”!

      I expect any semi-ironic goodwill that some hardcore fans have for him currently due to his amusing twitter persona to dissipate once the grim reality of “Mosley-Mayorga II: the 40+ edition” unfolds before their eyes.

      • LOL @ “The 40+ edition.”

        Yes, everyone who disagrees with or criticizes My Favorite Boxer/TV Show/Pop Star/Ale/Detergent/Dog Food Brand is a “hater,” and ironically, to be hated with all haste. The internet may be the greatest contribution to groupthink since religion, and the auto-da-fé for our time.

        Can I read your Shane back and forth at a link? Your grilling of DiBella was a classic. From my stabs at it, Twitter doesn’t exactly make it easy to look up individual exchanges.

        Saw trailers for several of the films you recommended and was absolutely taken by the one for Post Tenebras Lux, with its mysterious faces, falling tree and rotoscoped demon. Looks just like my cup of tea. Have Ceylan’s Uzak to see first.

      • Watched some Galloway stuff, including the Hardtalk badgering/interrogation. Interesting man. I have the Hitchens debate bookmarked.

        Yes, that’s one of twitter’s problems. Things get lost under the mountain of new tweets. I didn’t save it but will try to root it out for you.

        PTL is truly masterful (as is Uzak): it reminded me immediately, in terms of style, of Tarkovsky’s Mirror (my single favourite film) & is a major influence on my own film work so far. Brilliant visually and the very definition of personal filmmaking.

        Reygadas’ trope of the nonlinearity of time in this film as a reflection of how we perceive the world internally & process memory and experience resonates very strongly with me.

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