Film

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , , and on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore, a movie directed by Martin Scorsese starring Ellen Burstyn
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Ellen Burstyn won her Oscar for Alice, whose untapped energy escapes in mugging, face-pulling, and zingers swapped with a son (Alfred Lutter) precocious enough, anyway, to make up the other half of her double act. When the two peel out of suburbia to chase her dream job as a singer, Technicolor fantasy meets New American Cinema road movie, all motel rooms, pavement-baking Arizona sun, and character-actor bits as next-exit attractions. In his first studio production, Scorsese hits notes from domestic-violence psychodrama to working-class sitcom sass, edited on-the-beat to glam-rock stompers and the Great American Songbook. Tonal coherence is for squares. Mark Asch (May 3 at BAM, part of its Ellen Burstyn series)

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Failing Relationships at Tribeca 2014

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 4:55 PM

The One I Love, a movie directed by Charlie McDowell and starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass
The diversity of programming at the recently concluded Tribeca Film Festival, including about-to-release alt-summer programming, undistributed indies, and Sundance highlights, has a way of erasing expectations, if only by default. I had forgotten, sitting down to watch The One I Love, that it got good notices at Sundance earlier this year, and settled in for a domestic dramedy about a failing marriage. It is that, sort of—Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass play the couple; Ted Danson plays their therapist; no one else really appears on screen—but after a quiet, downbeat setup (Moss and Duplass aren't connecting but agree to attend a weekend retreat in an isolated getaway with an extra guest house) it goes in stranger and potentially more interesting directions.

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Tribeca 2014: The Best Stuff You May Have Missed

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Boulevard, a movie starring Robin Williams and directed by Dito Mointel
The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival may be over, but here are a few standout titles you'll want to keep an eye out for in the coming months.

Boulevard
Directed by Dito Montiel

Robin Williams has a peculiar career in movies these days: all his comedies are lousy, but his dramas are almost uniformly worthwhile. In Boulevard—a drama, thank god—he delivers one of his best and most intriguingly internal performances. (Who knew he could have doubled for Anthony Hopkins in The Remains of the Day?) The man whose comedy is without shame is here utterly without vanity; at a crucial moment he obsessively sobs, “It can’t mean nothing,” and it’s a wonder he doesn’t collapse right on the floor.

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What To Expect from the David Lynch Interview at BAM on Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Paul Holdengraber, Founder and Director of LIVE from the New York Public Library
  • Jocelyn Chase
Director David Lynch will open himself up to Paul Holdengräber—New York City’s most lively, multi-lingual, and erudite conversationalist—on the stage of BAM’s Opera House tomorrow night to a sold-out crowd of more than 2,000 people. As founder and director of LIVE from The New York Public Library, Holdengräber engages influential public figures from Wes Anderson to Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Steve Hindy, usually when they release a new film or book. The Lynch event, however, is part of no press tour. Traveling to Brooklyn from his home in Los Angeles, the filmmaker will explore his overall vision and creative process with Holdengräber, who last interviewed him in 2012 at the Grand Palais in Paris. More recently, Holdengräber facilitated the Paris Review’s first interview with a psychoanalyst for its Spring 2014 issue. He took a break from his deep, and often disturbing, immersion in Lynch’s body of work—including Eraserhead, his first feature, the Oscar-nominated Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr., and the haunting television series Twin Peaks—to take the seat of interviewee, for a change.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Many Faces of Cameron Diaz

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 12:16 PM

The Other Woman, Starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton
Even more so than some of her peers, Cameron Diaz has drawn a sharp, jagged line between the one-for-me-one-for-them movies she makes. Yet I'm also unsure, sometimes, whether her "me" movies are her often-serious, sometimes-uncomfortable roles in movies like Being John Malkovich, Any Given Sunday, Vanilla Sky, Gangs of New York, The Box, and The Counselor; her big studio comedies and dramedies like In Her Shoes, What Happens in Vegas, The Holiday, or What to Expect When You're Expecting; or (more likely) a mix of the two. Her biggest recent hit, Bad Teacher, offered a rare synthesis her disparate sides. It's a broad comedy, to be sure, but as a defiantly unfit middle-school teacher on the hunt for a rich husband, Diaz transcended the obvious Bad Santa parallels; her character's petulance was so undisguised, so thoroughly herself, that she became winning.

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What To See and What To Skip at Tribeca This Weekend

Posted By and on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Every Secret Thing, a movie directed by Amy Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener
Every Secret Thing
Directed by Amy Berg

Two girls steal an infant and kill it through a combination of neglect, ignorance and fear. That (fictional) incident lies at the center of this movie—an event so ghastly that its pain echoes out to everyone involved seven years later. Because the death occurred at the hands of children, it's easy and reasonable to dismiss it as a horrid mistake made by kids who may not act on the same impulses even a year later. But then the girls are released from prison and another child disappears under similar circumstances. Is it coincidence, or are the girls—to put it simply—evil? Every Secret Thing (which screens Sunday evening) has an answer to that question, and it's the least satisfying part of the film, an answer that not only awkwardly redefines the film’s narrative but also its genre.

The movie was directed by Amy Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, far removed from the gentle insights of Lovely & Amazing or Enough Said. While Berg’s previous credits, the documentaries Deliver Us From Evil and West of Memphis, covered similarly uncomfortable moral terrain, neither seem especially comfortable balancing the elements of procedural drama with the personal themes that presumably drew them to the material (Laura Lippman’s novel) in the first place. The film’s key character—Diane Lane, playing mother to one of the girls and surrogate mother to the other—is shunted off in favor of a more traditional, less interesting hero, Elizabeth Banks’s cop. It’s always interesting when independent filmmakers try their hands at genre fare, since they often infuse it with idiosyncratic styles and obsessions (example: Inside Man). In this case, the genre overwhelms its makers, and their qualities appear only faintly. That’s enough to make Every Secret Thing a solid entry among procedurals, but nothing more. Ryan Vlastelica

Verdict: Skip if You Want

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tribeca 2014: Night Moves' Activist Portland Noir

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Night Moves, a movie directed by Kelly Reichardt starring Jesse Eisenberg
Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves is the plottiest movie Kelly Reichardt has ever made. It's still a quiet, slow burn, of course; the movie operates under enough of a hush that the usually chatty Jesse Eisenberg says only a few words during its opening minutes. But it could also be called a procedural. Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning play environmental activists in the Portland area, planning to blow up a dam to make a statement about, I guess, how hydro-electricity is wasteful, too. (The movie catches only bits of environmentalist chatter, including a Q&A at a screening of a DIY activist movie that gave me flashbacks to Reichardt's partially concealed and completely earned disdain during a Wendy and Lucy Q&A years ago.) Eisenberg enlists the help of his sketchy buddy Peter Sarsgaard, and the movie draws tension from the almost comically small steps of their three-person operation: buy a boat. Drive out to Sarsgaard's woodsy trailer. Get some fertilizer. Stay calm.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Horror Movies of Tribeca 2014

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 12:42 PM

The Canal, Directed by Ivan Kavanaugh
The Canal
Directed by Ivan Kavanagh

Horror films are hard to mess up. Even if the script is terrible, filmmakers who can get a vulnerable character surrounded by creepy lighting and eerie noises can count on generating a sense of dread. Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal (which screens at the festival for the last time tonight) contains moments that are undeniably tense, but the tension comes from time-tested, overly familiar techniques. Everything else—you know, the movie part—seems like an afterthought, like this is the horror movie as Mad Libs. Consider the film’s creepiest moment, which involves a webcam seeing something the characters don’t. It’s undeniably tense, but the technique is the cinematic equivalent of frying food: undeniably delicious, but thanks to chemistry, not the skill of the cook. It would’ve been harder to screw that scene up.

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The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , , , and on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 9:15 AM

The Little Foxes, William Wylers adaptation of Lillian Hellmans play, starring Bette Davis
The Little Foxes (1941)
Directed by William Wyler
This movie, adapted from the Lillian Hellman play, got its name from the Song of Solomon—and it irrefutably lives up to it. The theatrical version starred Tallulah Bankhead, but Wyler’s film features the inimitable Bette Davis as the beautifully sinister Regina Giddons née Hubbard. Regina's equally malignant brothers seek her out to participate in a high-profit business deal, hoping she can secure necessary funds from her very sick husband (Herbert Marshall). Super-long shots harmonize with the rigid imagery of venomous deceit and being stabbed-in-the-back; when watching Ms. Davis you feel as if your heart may indeed turn to stone. Samantha Vacca (Apr 24-25 at BAM, part of its Back with a Vengeance series)

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tribeca 2014: In Your Eyes, the Antidote to Nicholas Sparks Claptrap

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 12:11 PM

In Your Eyes, Written by Joss Whedon
When Joss Whedon took over writing and directing The Avengers for Marvel Studios, it seemed like a great leap of creative faith for a studio not always known for recruiting distinctive voices. When The Avengers became a global smash, Whedon's great luck started to look a bit more ominous: would Marvel provide him a feature film career that would keep him in-franchise while supplanting his TV work?Instead, the opposite has happened: Whedon's only TV project these days is the Marvel spinoff Agents of SHIELD (run more closely by his brother), while his Avengers years also seem to have made him hungry to do more feature work. This has resulted in not only last year's micro-budget Much Ado About Nothing adaptation, but a restart of his screenwriting career. He cowrote the delightful horror riff The Cabin in the Woods and now has a solo screenwriting credit on In Your Eyes, which made its Tribeca Film Festival debut as Whedon made it available to rent online for five bucks. It's a good deal; it's also a movie worth seeing on a big screen in the dark. (It screens again Wednesday afternoon.)

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Tribeca 2014: Ballet 422, A Dance Movie for People Who Don't Like Dance

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM

A scene from Jody Lee Lipess documentary Ballet 422, starring Justin Peck
The last few prominent arthouse dance movies took ballet off the stage and into the real world: NY Export: Opus Jazz staged Jerome Robbins's choreography all over New York City: the High Line, Coney Island, the McCarren Park Pool. And Wim Wenders's Pina had a habit of letting the members of Bausch's troupe do their thing on mountainsides or in the woods. It's like the intro of West Side Story, shot in a neighborhood since razed, so much more thrilling and full of life than the rest of the film, cast and crew seemingly feeding off the energy of the real streets and buildings. There's provocation in taking an art form so thoroughly theatrical and taking it off the stage—and, potentially, it makes it more interesting for people who aren't interested in dance.

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Tribeca 2014: The Many Ways of Being Twentysomething

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Life Partners, Starring Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs
The premise of Life Partners (which screens at Tribeca Thursday and Sunday afternoons) recalls bits of better movies like Bridesmaids and Frances Ha. Like many twenty- and thirtysomethings before them, two very close female friends, played by Community's Gillian Jacobs and Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester, start to drift apart when one of them starts striding ahead in too many parts of her life: a steady and well-paying job and then, worse, a relationship that actually seems to be working out with a genial nerd-bro (Adam Brody). The movie treats their biggest difference—Meester's character is a lesbian—with gratifying casualness: it doesn't make any insulting assumptions about a sexual attraction between a gay lady and a straight one beyond the implication of a certain platonic faux-relationship comfiness on both ends when no girlfriends or boyfriends are in the picture.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Love, Sex and Business in Brooklyn: Talking With John Turturro

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

fading gigolo john turturro directing woody allen
There aren’t many actors who can segue from the Coen Brothers to Adam Sandler comedies, but John Turturro's one of them. His latest, Fading Gigolo, which he wrote and directed, is about two friends who find themselves in the world’s oldest profession. The eclectic cast includes Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and Liev Schrieber. We spoke with Turturro about the film in New York.

Fading Gigolo has an unusual premise, in which Woody Allen plays your pimp; how did it come about?
I thought it would be interesting to do something with Woody; we could have good chemistry and be an interesting duo, and then I thought what would happen if we wound up in the sex business. I was thinking about all these businesses closing throughout New York, and lots of these people had to reinvent themselves. I’ve also always liked movies about streetwalkers; Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria is one of my favorite movies ever. I think it’s a big part of life, and obviously you can trace culture and the dynamics between the sexes and how people go about their business politically and personally.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

How a Director Gets His Hands Dirty: Talking With Manos Sucia's Josef Kubota Wladyka

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM

manos sucias movie josef kubota wladyka
Manos Sucias is the story of two young men from Buenaventura, an impoverished town on Columbia’s Pacific coast, who pair up to take a fishing boat on a perilous drug run for a ruthless drug lord. We talked to director Josef Kubota Wladyka about the film and the true stories it was based on. It screens at Tribeca tonight and again on Monday.

Every time someone in your movie talks about moving to Bogota, someone else reminds them that there are no black people there. Do Afro-Colombians tend to be pretty invisible in most parts of Colombia? And if so, is that part of what made you want to tell this story?
Yes, definitely. I believe Afro-Latinos in South America in general haven’t been well represented in film, especially in Colombia. If you travel to Buenaventura, it doesn’t take long to see that it’s a place that’s been sort of forgotten by the government. It’s the richest port city in Colombia—it has the most imports and exports—but the people who live there don’t participate in that economy. It’s under siege by a lot of things, especially narco-trafficking.

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John Turturro's Fading Gigolo Is Inexplicably and Irretrievably Terrible

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 1:02 PM

fading gigolo john turturro woody allen
I was disheartened to find that this weekend's Wally Pfister sci-fi drama Transcendence (which I haven't yet seen) is getting mostly bad reviews. But more so I was surprised, perusing Rotten Tomatoes, to see how many passes have been given to John Turturro's Fading Gigolo. It's hard to bemoan critics going easy on a small-scale indie, especially one that Turturro wrote, starred in, and directed; I admired the distinct voice of his long-shelved and little-seen Romance and Cigarettes. And yet: Fading Gigolo is inexplicably and irretrievably terrible.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , , , and on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:00 AM

last metro movie francois truffaut catherine deneuve gerard depardieu
The Last Metro (1980)
Directed by François Truffaut
In Nazi-occupied France, intolerance was abundant and troubles aplenty; few could portray this repugnancy as beautifully as Truffaut. The only way to keep warm in the company of such hostility was to attend the theater—and, undoubtedly, at the end of the evening, to catch a final train back home. Catherine Deneuve plays an actress and soon-to-be theater owner whose Jewish husband has abandoned his career in order to save his own life. Enter Gerard Depardieu as Bernard, a separatist extraordinaire with a fiery necessity for acting who insults any proponents of the war. In the style of Jules and Jim, Truffaut explores a love triangle, art overcoming adversity in a scenario wherein, despite all odds, the show must go on. Samantha Vacca (Apr 17 at Film Forum, part of its Tout Truffaut series)

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Friday, April 11, 2014

When Movie Stars Make Movies That Nobody Sees

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 11:08 AM

kristen wiig hateship loveship liza johnson
Can you think of a comic actor who has capitalized less visibly on a major hit than Kristen Wiig? Since Bridesmaids smashed in 2011, Wiig has appeared in exactly two wide-release movies: as a low-key love interest to Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and as a berserk love interest to Steve Carell in Anchorman 2. Her more substantial roles, meanwhile, have all been in indies: Friends with Kids; her ill-fated pet project Girl Most Likely; the upcoming indie drama The Skeleton Twins; and the just-opened Hateship Loveship, a small drama based on an Alice Munro short story. The rest of her 2015-and-beyond dance card goes on in that vein. In other words, she's doing more or less what she was doing before Bridesmaids (when she happily jumped aboard smallish comedies like MacGruber or The Brothers Solomon), albeit with a stronger emphasis on drama.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

Posted By , and on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 4:00 AM

lonesome cowboys andy warhol wrestling scene
Lonesome Cowboys (1968)
Directed by Andy Warhol
Ramona (played by Viva) is a frustrated ranch owner living with her stoned male nurse (Taylor Mead) in the desert; Julian (Tom Hompertz) is a buff young drifter passing through. To be together, these star-crossed lovers must overcome five horny marauding cowboy brothers (including Warhol-regular Joe Dallesandro) who aim to have their way with them both. Warhol’s largely improvised film was shot on location in the Arizona desert, and the result pays tribute to the human spirit’s strength in a world ruled by sex and money. “You can’t find anybody that you love as much as yourself, so you’re always lonesome,” one of the cowboys tells Julian, explaining their situation as much as that of Ramona, who strives to hold her ground against the gang-raping goons until her younger beloved grows up. Aaron Cutler (Apr 10 at Film Forum)

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Music That Makes Under the Skin Go Bone Deep

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:33 PM

scarjo2.jpg

There's not much Mica Levi is bad at, apparently. She composed for the London Philharmonic at age 21. Her band Micachu & The Shapes used instruments she made herself to create Jewellery, one of the 00s' best weird art-pop records. Never, their 2012 follow-up, is one of the most underrated of this decade so far. She returned to the classical world in 2011, lending a disjointed hip-hop sensibility to the London Sinfionetta chamber orchestra. Now, in her mid-20s, she's become an acclaimed film composer for scoring Under the Skin, the beautifully odd new sci-fi flick by '90s music video master turned Kubrick heir, Jonathan Glazer.

In it, Scarlett Johansson plays a seductive alien preying on the lonely young men of Scotland. With dark, baffling images and hardly any dialogue, Levi's anxious, buzzing score has to do much of the film's work to let the viewer inside a somewhat inscrutable character grappling with the onset of humanity. It's hypnotic, disorienting, and quite impressive. We talked to Levi about working on a film for the first time, her music's unique role in Under the Skin, and how hearing Dr. Dre in a strip club influenced her own soundtrack to man-eating.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

The Different Kinds of Female Action Stars: Scarlett Johansson vs. Gina Carano

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 10:53 AM

captain america winter soldier scarlett johansson black widow marvel avengers
I understand that this weekend marks the long-awaited-by-me Scarlett Johansson film festival, wherein Ms. Johansson stars not only in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which sounds like one of her bigger chunks of Black Widow screentime so far) but also Under the Skin, which, as the trailers foolishly point out, comes from the director of Birth. (Anyone who, like me, in any way wants to replicate the experience of watching Birth, trust me, is well aware that Skin comes from the same Jonathan Glazer who hasn't made a movie in almost a decade, probably not least in part because of Birth.) Despite the Glazer picture, this is a big year for Action Johansson: she's starring in a Luc Besson movie come August; she's made a decent action heroine as Black Widow, but I wonder if Johansson's bills-paying action gigs, which did not appear to be in her future circa Ghost World or The Man Who Wasn't There, irritate the occasional lady who tries to make a go of bona fide action stardom—once and possibly future MMA fighter Gina Carano, for example.

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