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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: BOARDWALK EMPIRE season two finale

“To the Lost,” the second season finale of Boardwalk Empire, may be remembered as the moment when Boardwalk finally, finally hit its stride. This isn’t the first time the HBO drama has impressed me — even the worst episodes have had great scenes or moments — but there was something special about this one. It was dead solid perfect in almost every department. I think a lot of it comes back to the episode’s consistency of tone, and the show’s comfort with having settled on it.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 12, 2011 3:25 PM
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  • 0 Comments

GREY MATTERS: Here are the top 10 beautiful ideas, people and events that defined 2011

This is my theory and I’m sticking to it: if more things were more beautiful, everything else would be way better. Even in this age of fiscal cholera, beauty for the sake of it is it’s own sacred reward. But as Americans, we’re saddled with the Protestant curse and the attendant pathologies of fetishizing plainness, respecting the mediocre and being in thrall to outright ugliness, whether that manifests in strip malls, lip-warping Restylane or mind-rotting Rush. We could all use a bit of Stendhal syndrome, that most wonderfully strange of psychosomatic ailments that causes the individual to experience rapid heartbeat, dizziness and even hallucinations when exposed to beautiful things. And so: a list, where I don’t worry on a genre or platform and instead celebrate ten people, events or ideas whose beauty shook me of the uglies in 2011.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 12, 2011 2:55 PM
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  • 1 Comment

SIMON SAYS: THE SITTER, blah blah, balls on fire, Method Man cameo, blah blah, double-fisted punch to the balls, blah

This is it, folks: David Gordon Green isn’t the guy that made George Washington and All the Real Girls anymore. Now, he’s the guy that made Pineapple Express and Your Highness. Which is a transition that doesn’t really deserve an award or a hearty handshake or even much praise really. But for the sake of needlessly giving credit where credit is due, I have to say: this new David Gordon Green is ok.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 12, 2011 12:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: CHAOS CINEMA, PART 3; Matthias Stork addresses his critics

Editor’s Note: Press Play is proud to debut part three in Matthias Stork’s Chaos Cinema, the latest installment in an ongoing consideration of a phenomenon that Stork defined in two video essays that ran on this site in August, 2011. His first two chapters touched off a firestorm of debate that’s still going on. Just last weekend, New York Times contributor Alex Pappadeas cited the piece in a year-end “Riffs” column. Citing bizarre images in "the trailer for 2016, a possibly nonexistent sci-fi movie from Ghana," Pappadeas argued that the major problem with the style is that it does not go far enough. "The standard knock on Chaos Cinema filmmakers is that they’re constructing narratives entirely from rupture and collision," he writes. "But if movies are going to go there, they should really go there. Let’s stop asking directors who clearly have no affinity for story or character to pretend otherwise. Instead, let’s let the alien kick the baby, and see how far the baby will fly." That’s what Stork is doing here by addressing his critics directly using the form that has served him well in the past, the video essay. The full text of the piece’s narration is printed below. For context, we’ve also reproduced Parts 1 and 2 of Chaos Cinema as well. The comments section is open. You may fire when ready.
  • By Matthias Stork
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  • December 9, 2011 6:12 PM
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  • 22 Comments

TONY DAYOUB: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is a worthy remake filled with lonely characters

The tall, athletic man introduced earlier in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as British Intelligence officer Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) walks into a classroom and begins to write his name on the chalkboard. Only he does not write the name we’ve come to know him by. The typically garrulous young males attending the tony prep school remain blissfully unaware of their new teacher’s identity as he starts handing out the class assignment. But the viewer is all too keenly aware of who Prideaux is if only for the fact that we saw him shot in the back at the start of Tomas Alfredson’s film adaptation of the John le Carré novel. Is this a flashback? Or did Prideaux somehow survive the shooting? Prideaux’s mild demeanor belies his efficiency, a fact his students become aware of when a bird trapped in the chimney suddenly flies into the classroom in confusion. Prideaux rapidly pulls out a club from his desk drawer and swats the bird down to the ground where it continues to squeal in pain. As Alfredson directs the camera to capture the students’ horrified reactions, the sound of Prideaux beating the bird to death comes from off-screen.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • December 9, 2011 12:35 PM
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  • 3 Comments

SLIDE SHOW: Secret agenda: 20 classic spy movies

There’s one big problem with compiling a list of great spy movies: How exactly do you define a “spy movie”? Do the spies have to be employed by a government agency? Does the action have to be international, or can it be domestic, even local? Do the characters have to engage in deception and/or information-gathering, or can they mainly be assassins, like James Bond or Jason Bourne? Is the “assassin film” its own separate genre? If movie characters have nothing to do with international politics but engage in surveillance and deception and other classic spy activities, can their story be grouped within the “spy movie” category?
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 9, 2011 3:17 AM
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  • 2 Comments

Press Play video series MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG to debut Dec. 15, 2011

Press Play is proud to announce our first video essay series in direct partnership with IndieWire: "Magic and Light: The Films of Steven Spielberg." Set to premiere Dec. 15, 2011 on this blog, this series will examine facets of Spielberg's movie career, including his stylistic evolution as a director, his depiction of violence, his interest in communication and language, his portrayal of authority and evil, and the importance of father figures -- both present and absent -- through
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • December 7, 2011 12:34 PM
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  • 6 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The controlled madness of AMERICAN HORROR STORY

This may be the line that Jessica Lange was born to say, in the role she was born to play, on a TV show perfectly suited to her fluttery intensity. That she delivered it over a tight shot of a ham festooned with moist pineapple slices being thrust into the camera’s lens — as if the show were being broadcast in 3-D! — made it a perfect kick-off to “Smoldering Children,” the 10th episode of the first season of American Horror Story. Written by X-Files veteran James Wong and directed by Michael Lehmann (Heathers), the hour greatly escalated the madness on this already demented show. Created by Glee executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the series seems to be inventing a new kind of horror — a 21st-century, short-attention-span-theater version, with no lulls. The traditional buildup to the big scare? Booooo-ring. Perhaps operating under the assumption — not unwarranted — that most viewers are watching the program on DVR or illegal download and will just fast-forward to the “good parts” anyhow, they’ve decided to save us all the bother. Every few seconds there’s a fabulously bitchy one-liner, a grim bit of exposition or a surprisingly deft transition between the two, or a beating or stabbing or disembowelment or horrendous searing of flesh, or a faintly S&M-dungeon-flavored sex scene, or a revelation that a character you thought was alive was actually dead all along, or that the heroine has been impregnated by both her husband and by a black-rubber-suited spectral hunk and is carrying both of their children.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 6, 2011 11:29 PM
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  • 0 Comments

THREE REASONS FOR CRITERION CONSIDERATION: Shuji Terayama's PASTORAL, TO DIE FOR THE COUNTRY (1974)

Every great filmmaker reaches a point in their career when they need to reflect upon their life and childhood, tracing the path that lead them to where they are today. Most often these nostalgic quandaries find their way into new fictionalized scenarios, drawing on personal experience to entertain themselves as well as audiences. Sometimes a director takes a more direct approach, probing their past in the form of autobiographical diaries. Our experiences as children inevitably make us who we are today, and tapping into those memories can provide some tasty material for any filmmaker who questions why they make the kind of films they make. (Look to Federico Fellini’s entire career for further evidence of that point.) Not all memories are immediately accessible to recall, especially those associated with extreme emotional connections.
  • By Robert Nishimura
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  • December 6, 2011 12:16 PM
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  • 0 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: TV’s unconscionable spectacle

The scariest, most disgusting show on television isn’t American Horror Story. It’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Bravo’s unscripted series offers that horror movie gimmick of showing you unlikable people doing ill-advised things that you can’t prevent no matter how loudly you yell or curse at the screen. But because the characters are — in the physical sense, at least — “real,” and the world-shattering plot twist at the core of this season was telegraphed to the audience long in advance, what might otherwise seem a guilty pleasure seems instead a travesty, as depraved a spectacle as anything that has ever appeared on American screens.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 5, 2011 4:04 AM
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  • 0 Comments

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