Film Review

Lord of the Flies Redux

sop.jpg"The Hollywood war movies were propaganda for our side, and put us in the comfortable position of identifying with the heroic anti-Nazis," New Yorker critic Pauline Kael noted when reviewing The Sorrow and the Pity.

But if every film has a paladin of sorts, with whom can we connect in Errol Morris's latest documentary, Standard Operating Procedure, an unrelenting scrutinization of the Abu Ghraib horrors? Read more »

The Short and the Long of It

think_modineThey're a calling card, a vanity project, a graduate thesis, and a way to burn through the money of friends and family (not to mention your credit cards). And sometimes, they're great art. They're short films, and when they're done right, just like short stories, they are a breed apart. I've always mourned the fact that movies aren't preceded by short subjects any more. In our increasingly attention-span-challenged world, shorts would seem to be a great fit. And who needs to see 25 minutes of coming attractions? Read more »

Poultrygeist: Finger-Lickin' Moronism

poultrygeist.jpgHow much politically incorrect, defecation-filled, blood-laced, bare-bosomed, anus-violating imbecility can one movie musical contain? Director Lloyd Kaufman, the director of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and the man behind Troma Entertainment, has proven there are clearly no limits.

Certainly, this will be no surprise to any of the fans of Mr. Kaufman and his Troma ventures. The creative force behind such cult classics as The Toxic Avenger series, Class of Nuke 'Em High, and Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD has clearly proven over the years that he can take on any liberal concern (e.g. nuclear waste) and KABOWEE! Read more »

A Gothic Cut of Quality

razor_blade_smileRazor Blade Smile (Manga Video)

"I bet you think you know all about vampires. Believe me you know fuck all!" purrs the divinely named Lilith Silver in perversely sophisticated English tones at the start of this wonderfully funny, outrageously stagy, British horror flick. Brilliantly portrayed by Eileen Daly, like Diamanda Galas possessed by the mischievous spirit of Fenella Fielding, she vamps and camps her character's bloody way through this low-budget masterpiece, sweeping along like Marilyn Manson in shades auditioning for the lead in The Matrix. This is a B movie which celebrates B movies, but which manages to transcend, and yet elevate, the genre.  Read more »

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, 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 »


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

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 »

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