Film Review

Oh, Canada!: If You Think Life Is Bad Now, Just You Wait! Or Make a Film

summit_circleThe Museum of Modern Art is home to two theaters programmed by some of the finest curators in the business. And if you ever get to chat them up at a cocktail party or at a MENSA meeting, you'll find them as charming as they are erudite, especially the celebrated Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film.

This, by the way, is the perfect time to kvell over Mr. Kardish, who organized, in cooperation with Telefilm Canada, last week's celebration of the celluloid side of our northern neighbor, Canadian Front, 2008. Eight feature films were screened spotlighting the best and more innovative talent of that rather huge country. Read more »

All is Forgiven: Well, Almost

all_3.jpgOne of the true highlights of the annual film calendar is the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema held at Lincoln Center in conjunction with the French Film Office/uniFrance USA. Each year Rendez-Vous spotlights some of the more challenging, beguiling, innovative, and/or gloriously oh-so-French offerings from across the sea. And along with the films come the directors and stars.

So between March 10 and 19, if you're by West 66th Street, get ready to run into Elsa Zylberstein, Claude Miller, Cédric Klapisch, Claude Lelouch, Sandrine Bonnaire, and a dozen more of French cinema's most dynamic talents. Read more »

The Oscar Cometh. Who Cares?

oscar_statue"Despite what the Wall Street Journal says, our awards are the best-kept secret in America, with the possible exception of what George W. Bush did in the '70s." -- Billy Crystal

February 24 is just around the corner. Yes, Oscar night, but does anyone really care?

Not playwright Larry Kramer, who noted in a rather friendly manner, "I don't want to be part of this article." Read more »

Heath Ledger: The Next James Dean?

heath_ledgerA few years back, Forbes.com noted with tongue only slightly in cheek that "[o]ne might not think of death as an optimal career move, but for some celebrities, crossing over to the far side doesn't hurt their income in the least."

For example, last year, the estate of George Harrison earned $22 million, while Charles M. Schulz's scored $35 million. As for Yoko's John, he raked in $44 million; however, Elvis was the top Hound Dog among deceased earners with $49 million. Read more »

Tehilim

tehilim1.jpgTehilim, French-born Raphael Nadjari's fifth film, might just be the best unreleased celluloid treat of the year. However, thanks to local celebrations of cinema such as the 17th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF), several hundred cineastes here and there will be discovering this astonishing work by an overlooked master. Well, not totally overlooked: Nadjari was nominated for a Golden Palm at Cannes last year. Read more »

Juno Junko

juno_movieI know they've got a lot of good lawyers out in Hollywood. I'm not so sure about writers and filmmakers. But it would be my suggestion for Wes Anderson to get himself one of those sharks and take out a suit against the makers of Juno. The people who made Garden State, and Sideways, and Little Miss Sunshine might want to join in, in a kind of quirk-infringement class action suit.

Except that they're all too nice to do it.

And, from what I can tell, the mainstream cinematic press certainly won't act to stamp out the odious brand of sweetness being peddled in Juno. So it's up to me. Read more »

The Foreskin Dilemma

quest_missing_pieceLearning Hebrew. Fighting a disastrous war in Lebanon. Pogroms in Argentina. A singing mohel. Yes, it's time again for the annual New York Jewish Film Festival (January 9-24). In fact, this is the 17th year The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center have pulled together the best of the best of current cinema that explores Judaism in all its complex variations.

One of the fest's more entertaining and informative efforts is Oded Lotan's debut effort, The Quest for the Missing Piece. Read more »

Smiley Face: A Milestone for Femme Stoners

smiley_faceOne can't say for sure whether Simone de Beauvoir was envisioning the likes of Gregg Araki's Smiley Face when she penned The Second Sex (1949), but in some odd, dyspeptic way, a feminist timeline could be envisioned that places the former at point A, and the latter at point Z.

Yes, finally, a half-century later, a tedious, empty-headed stoner film focusing on a female pothead, Jane F. (Anna Faris), who's limited to one facial expression and lines such as "I'm totally vibing on you, dude," has arrived just in time to greet the New Year. Santa must have thought we were very, very bad. Read more »

Lars and the Real Girl

lars_and_the_real_girl.jpgA most unlikely story, Lars and the Real Girl is a film about a socially awkward young man, Lars (Ryan Gosling) who purchases a blow-up sex doll named Bianca and becomes attached to it as though it were a real person. Lars finds his true love on a computer website brought to his attention by a co-worker at the office.

That in itself might not be such a huge deal -- there is a market for blow-up dolls for a reason, and more than a few buyers at any given time. Read more »

Soldier Burnout

valley_of_elah.jpgPaul Haggis is a serious writer and director. He’s into issues. In his Academy Award winning Crash, he took an insightful look at racism in contemporary Los Angeles. In his script for Letters from Iwo Jima, Haggis brought a unique humanity to the doomed Japanese army officers stranded on a Pacific Island in World War II. Now in his latest film, In the Valley of Elah, Haggis lays out a story of young soldiers recently back from a tour of Iraq. They seem to be doing more or less okay, but as the film progresses, we see just how deeply they have been damaged. Read more »

Lo Mein and Spaghetti Sauce

exiled.jpgExiled
Directed by Johnnie To (Mega Star)

Even though all the reviewers have likened Exiled to a Spaghetti Western, it features no horses or guns or vast Spanish landscapes, but it does have plenty of squinting and scowling and good-bad guys and bad-bad guys. Call it a modern multi-genre mashup.

The movie takes place in Macao just days before the transition from Portuguese to Mainland Chinese rule in 1998. Read more »

The Perfect Movie

4_months.jpgWelcome to the perfect movie. Cristian Mungiu's
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is the accomplished melding of both an aesthetic and a moral sensibility, of politics and art, of love and disillusionment, of acting and being.

The winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes and showcased at the recent New York Film Festival, this faultlessly shot and edited offering has already won over the world's critics. Read more »

Tyler Perry Gets Serious

tyler_perry.jpgTyler Perry started out writing about his abuse as a child, so he's had a serious side from the start. It just got overlooked in the wake of a series of comic movies he wrote (and often directed and produced as well) and starred in the cross-dressed role of Mabel "Madea" Simmons, the matriarch of an African-American family. His Madea movies have been wildly popular, despite a lack of attention or respect from most of the critical establishment.

His newest film, Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate, PG-13), which was the #1 release in its opening week, again finds him writing, directing, producing, and starring. This time, though, not only does Perry play a male role, he has a somewhat more serious tone, while still providing laughs. Read more »

The Division of Joy Equals Control

control_movie.jpgControl by Anton Corbijn

A talk with Peter Hook, Mark Greenhalgh and John Robb at the Cornerhouse, Manchester on Friday, October 19, followed by a screening of the Ian Curtis biopic. It could have been three guys locked in music-related conversation in the Gay Traitor, the Hacienda's basement bar named after the spy Anthony Blunt (now seriously expensive apartments). It was, however, the tiny stage of Screen Two of Manchester's premiere arts cinema, the Cornerhouse, and these three had an audience. Read more »

I Shot Jesse James

jesse_james.jpgThe First Films of Samuel Fuller: I Shot Jesse James/The Baron of Arizona/The Steel Helmet (Criterion Collection)

Samuel Fuller came out of WWII guns a-blazin’, anxious to get back into the movie game in a big way. Fuller had done some scripting before the war, had made connections, but the tabloid jockey-turned-infantryman had yet to hit personal paydirt.

B-movie producer Robert Lippert, responsible for dozens of B pictures, could greenlight anything that looked interesting and would cost peanuts to shoot, and when Fuller said he wanted to make a picture about Jesse James’s killer, Robert Ford, Lippert gave him the go-ahead. Read more »

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