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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

SLIDE SHOW: Martin Scorsese’s greatest movies

This has been quite a year for 60-something American filmmakers. Terrence Malick, who started directing in 1973, created the year’s most divisive conversation piece with “The Tree of Life.” Woody Allen, who started directing in 1966, had his biggest financial success with “Midnight in Paris.” Steven Spielberg, who directed his first feature-length movie 40 years ago, has two blockbusters coming out this month, “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse.” And Martin Scorsese, who made his directorial debut in 1966, has had another success with “Hugo,” a film history-conscious 3-D art film for kids that finished second to “The Muppets” at the box office during its opening weekend and was just named film of the year by the National Board of Review. It’s as good a time as any for a Best of Scorsese list — as if I really need an excuse!
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 2, 2011 10:00 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Joe Swanberg's CAITLIN PLAYS HERSELF defies expectations and categorization

There’s not much nuance to the discussion around Joe Swanberg’s films. You either think the amazingly prolific director’s the second coming of Ingmar Bergman and the French New Wave or a sexist softcore sleazebag. No other member of the mumblecorps generates so much heat, even if Andrew Bujalski or Aaron Katz’s films aren’t universally liked. At a Q&A in Brooklyn two months ago, I asked Swanberg why he thinks his work is so divisive. He pointed out several possible reasons – shooting entirely on video (although he’s far from alone there), acting in his own films – before settling on the fact that he puts his libido explicitly into his work. That sex drive is usually but not always directed towards beautiful young women. However, Swanberg has also filmed himself masturbating for real, and his forthcoming film, The Zone, an update of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema, depicts a mysterious bisexual stranger.
  • By Steven Erickson
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  • December 2, 2011 11:39 AM
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  • 0 Comments

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: On “Weed Wars,” drug clichés go up in smoke

“I run a family business, and the business is cannabis,” says Steve D’Angelo, a central character in Discovery’s new series “Weed Wars” and the co-founder and executive director of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, which distributes medical marijuana to almost 100,000 customers. D’Angelo’s matter-of-fact statement sums up the tone of this series, which treats the Harborside Heath Center as just another family-owned (albeit nonprofit) business, ultimately not too different from a veterinary clinic, a hair salon or a tattoo parlor.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 1, 2011 7:53 PM
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  • 0 Comments

GREY MATTERS: How "Lifeforce" and "Mean Streets" saved my sanity

In 1986 an M.T.A. bus ran the light on 42nd Street and smashed into my face, sending my body hurtling about 15 feet until it crashed into a mailbox and the cement. My nose was crushed to the side of my face and gushing blood, my skull cracked, my knee and leg broken.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 1, 2011 8:49 AM
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  • 11 Comments

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