Film Review

"He had a lot to say…"

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Some documentaries transform their subject into a sculpted statue; others bring them to life. American: The Bill Hicks Story is certainly the latter, digging through personal photos, family interviews, and previously unseen footage to resurrect one of America's most belatedly appreciated national treasures of stand-up comedy. Read more »

A Film Unfinished: Dressing Up the Warsaw Ghetto

Is there a proper way to watch a Holocaust documentary?

There must be. Because while forking down a Hot Pockets Cheese Stuffed Crust Three Cheese Pizza and swigging a can of Coca-Cola Zero as images of the starving residents of the Warsaw Ghetto traipsed across my computer screen, I started feeling rather vile. Rather inappropriate. Read more »

Cracks: Crazed Lesbian Teachers Get Their Due

Oh, my God! I was just about to rip apart Cracks when I started inquiring into the novel it's based upon. Suddenly, I went, "That author's name seems awfully familiar."

Yes, Sheila Kohler, when she was a brunette, was my creative writing teacher, and according to several reviews of her novels, she's done quite well for herself after she recovered from grading my short stories. Note the acclaim for Becoming Jane Eyre. Read more »

Heartbeats: Bang! Bang! My Baby Shot Me Down!

In recent decades there have been a handful of times we've seen a film and known immediately a master is at work here. Take the early works of Almodovar, Aronofsky, Francois Ozon, and Paul Thomas Anderson, for example.

On these occasions, on the screen, there's something that strikes us immediately. A style we've never witnessed before. A wit. An undeniable intelligence. We find ourselves laughing at a joke that's not a retread from a dozen mall comedies of the previous year. Or we smile or shiver upon recognizing a truth about the characters we see interacting before us, an honesty exposing our own little secrets that we've seldom shared aloud. Read more »

In a Better World or I Was a Preteen Sociopath

In A Better WorldThis surprise Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film spotlights what a delightful haven Denmark is for children with homicidal tendencies. A young boy can beat up another with a bicycle pump, blow up vans, and punch his father in the stomach, and the youth will be completely forgiven and allowed to stay in school. And in the end, he will transform into a loving lad, of course.

Moral: Coddle the potential cutthroat in your life and he'll become a pussycat, unlike in real life where bastards become bigger bastards. Read more »

The Cinema of Narcolepsy: Certified Copy and Uncle Kent

There are films about slumber such as Andy Warhol's Sleep  (currently screening at MoMA). And there are movies focusing on sleep's byproduct, dreams: confusingly manipulated ones such as in Inception or brutally fatal ones as in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Then there are the features that you wished you had slept through such as You, Me and Dupree, the second half of Kaboom, and every work ever directed by Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Read more »

The Last Summer Tour or The French Rock On

Bus-PalladiumAre you ready for what some are calling the very first worldwide, all-French Internet movie gala, My French Film Festival?

Yes, from January 14 until January 29th, for less than $20, you'll be able to screen and vote on the merits of twenty brand new Gallic features and shorts on your iPad or what have you. Here's a dream come true for Roger-Ebert wannabes and the more cultured among us. If you fit the bill, get your thumbs in shape and your Brie room temperature. Read more »

Romeo & Juliet in Yiddish: "Oy Vey! Thy Lips Are Warm."

romeo-and-juliet-yiddishG-d bless. It's that time of year again. Yes, The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center are presenting, for the 20th time in fact, The New York Jewish Film Festival. Features and shorts, 36 of them, from 14 countries, Mexico included, will spotlight every aspect of Judaism you can think of. From a composer's problems with his wife (Mahler on the Couch), to comprehending love (The Matchmaker), to the Holocaust and the artistic impulse (Vera Klement: Blunt Edge), and even teenage friendships between Israelis and Palestinians (My So-called Enemy), all will be showcased. Read more »

Kaboom: Araki Explodes with a Pfffft!

kaboom-filmIn 2004, Gregg Araki stunned his fans and international critics with a brilliant little film, Mysterious Skin, a searing adaptation of Scott Heim's cult novel concerning child abuse, cow abuse, being gay, hustling, and grasping for affection.

Before achieving this cinematic feat, Araki helped kick off the New Queer Cinema movement with The Living End (1992), a poorly acted, technically uneven, yet audaciously brave feature about two hotties with AIDS who decide to become Bonnie and Clyde. Read more »

Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures or "Blow Job" Meets Harry Potter

warhol-film"An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have," Andy Warhol once noted. But after viewing the superb new presentation of Andy's early films at MOMA, you might reword that to: "Art is something people don't need to have but are better off having."

Sublimely organized by Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA's acclaimed Chief Curator at Large, the films, each situated in a black frame, some measuring seven feet high and nine feet wide, are almost reminiscent of the paintings hanging at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, except these won't scream at you, which is a bit of a shame.

Who wouldn't like to be vocally abused by Nico or Dennis Hopper? Read more »

Chance: The Discreet Charm of the Proletariat

chance_filmAbner Benaim's Chance was beating out James Cameron's Avatar at the box office in its third week of release in its native Panama . . . and deservedly.

This hard-hitting, anti-bourgeois comedy opens with the dapper Fernando González-Dubois (Francisco Gattorno) running for political office. Interviewed on a TV news show, he avers, "I am a man of the people. My job is to work for the well-being of my country."

His "heartfelt" words start ringing empty when the camera starts exploring his home life. His wife Gloria (Isabella Santodomingo) splits her time between getting breast implants, taking classes, and shopping. His twin teen daughters are into group sex and demeaning the help. Read more »

Knight and Day: DVD Innocuousness

knight_day_dvdKnight and Day (20th Century Fox, Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Holiday Gift Set)

Fresh off his film- stealing part as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (not to mention his performance at the MTV Movie Awards with J.Lo), Tom Cruise ventures back to the big screen as leading man in Knight and Day co-starring Cameron Diaz. He plays rogue agent Roy Miller on a mission to save the world. Cameron Diaz's June is the all-too-willing beautiful bystander who gets caught up in his world of espionage and intrigue. Read more »

Catching Up: Gross-Out Fun plus Death à la Eastwood

due_dateDue Date

Over a decade ago, Todd Phillips co-created the New York Underground Film Festival. Those were the days when this event was really, really underground and almost too scary to attend. (Try sitting through Roadkill.) He went on to direct the highly entertaining Frat House for HBO, a "documentary" never to be released for the masses. Then he surprised everyone by becoming one of the most commercially profitable directors in America, with Road Trip, Old School, and The Hangover -- the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time -- under his belt. Read more »

Shorties: Brassieres on Strike, Uncle Boonmee, and Primroses

dagenham-filmMade in Dagenham

Norma Rae goes Brit in this fact-based tale of exploited women working for the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, England, in the Sixties.

Ford already has one of the more dreadful histories in American business. Henry Ford helped spread anti-Semitism around the world, and thanks to the recycling of his original publications today, these very same writings are continuing to advocate hatred of the Jews to newbie neo-Nazis. If this weren't enough, according to one source, "Ford sent Hitler 50,000 Deutsche Marks every year on the Führer's birthday." Read more »

Shorties: Assassins and Diaper Changing

life-as-we-know-itThe Ghost Writer

Now on DVD, Roman Polanski's clever adaptation of Robert Harris' thiller bows down to Alfred Hitchcock, especially with its superb Bernard Herrmann-like score by Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Fantastic Mr. Fox).

The plot starts off simply enough. A nameless writer (Ewan McGregor), unambiguously known as "The Ghost" in the production notes, is hired to rewrite the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister (based upon Tony Blair). The previous ghost who had penned the rather boring first draft had recently fallen off a local ferry dead drunk and drowned. Or did he? Could it have been murder and if so, why? Read more »

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