The Playlist

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'Beauty Is Embarrassing' Is A Laugh Out Loud Portrait Of The Wild & Wacky Wayne White

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 28, 2012 5:00 PM
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“Beauty is Embarrassing” is such a warm, laugh out loud charmer of a documentary thanks entirely to its subject, the wild and wonderful Wayne White, that it leaves you wondering, just where has this delightful man been all this time? And that’s the question “Beauty is Embarrassing” posits too -- serving as an opportunity to bring attention to this artist who has been more influential than we, or even he, knows.

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'La Camioneta' Provides An Intimate And Hopeful Look At Modern Migration

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 28, 2012 3:19 PM
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The Guatemalan documentary “La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus,” from American director Mark Kendall, sheds light on a little known connection between the United States and Central America. After discovering that most of Guatemala’s public transportation buses – known as camionetas – are actually refurbished American school buses, Kendall set out to capture the process by which these vehicles gained a second life. In doing so, he has created a work of sociological significance as well as a surprisingly personal account of a community that has ensured its survival by salvaging these buses.

Review: 'A Burning Hot Summer' Is A Thundering Bore That Verges On Self-Parody

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 28, 2012 10:56 AM
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  • 3 Comments
There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a number of things might come up. Characters who are constantly having extra-marital affairs, for instance. A vaguely homoerotic relationship between two friends. Unbroken four-to-five minute takes. Dialogue talking about 'the revolution.' An actress, perhaps Monica Bellucci, taking her clothes off within the first 45 seconds.

Review: A Well-Constructed 'People Like Us' Is Marred By Its Sentimental Mawkishness

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 28, 2012 10:04 AM
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Alex Kurtzman’s new film, “People Like Us,” shares the technical prowess of these films, employing supreme sound and visual techniques to create subjectivity. However, an increasingly rote storyline and adherence to syrupy-sweet romantic comedy tropes leaves a murky aftertaste: a schmaltzy tearjerker masquerading as a psychological thriller.

L.A. Film Fest Review: In 'Teddy Bear,' Bodybuilders Are People Too; Show Them Some Love

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 27, 2012 6:02 PM
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Where the phrase “Teddy Bear” implies a certain squashy cuddliness, the film’s subject is anything but. At least on the outside. But, then again, bears aren’t that cuddly in real life either. Danish Director Mads Matthiesen developed this feature from his acclaimed 2007 short, “Dennis,” which began his exploration of the emotional resonance of an ultra-masculine figure in an incredibly emasculating situation. In the full-length version of the story, the man’s humiliation and powerlessness evolve into the quiet self-confidence of a person who has found acceptance. Upon peeling back this teddy bear’s layers of fun skin, we begin to see the soft cotton that gives him his true shape.

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'The Iran Job' Is A Warm, Winning Tale of One Basketball Player's Experience In Iran

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 27, 2012 4:59 PM
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  • 1 Comment
During the Q&A after the screening of “The Iran Job,” director Till Schauder described how the idea for a documentary about “journeymen” professional basketball players in Iran came to him before he had a subject that could carry his documentary. His wife and producer Sarah Nodjoumi is Iranian-American, and the political repercussions surrounding these athletes pursuing a dream to play professionally, anywhere, intrigued the filmmaking duo. After starting to film the documentary with a few players who were “nice enough,” they happened upon an American player named Kevin Sheppard, from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and instantly knew he was their man. And aren’t they lucky that they did find Kevin, because “The Iran Job” could be much different if it weren’t for Kevin’s big hearted friendliness and disarming sense of humor that obliterates cultural barriers. The result is a documentary that combines elements of the sports movie, fish-out-of-water story, political film and personal portrait that is an entertaining and fascinating look at this one man in this country.

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'Pincus' Is An Ambiguously Formatted, Inconclusive Study Of Spirituality And Self-Destruction

  • By Emma Bernstein
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  • June 27, 2012 2:55 PM
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One of the best things about film festivals is that they provide an opportunity for smaller, perhaps lesser-known movies to be shown to a considerable audience, and to receive a certain amount of buzz from publicists, press, and fans. Sometimes, festival planning committees choose these independent films because they are quite experimental and thus bring new talent onto the film industry’s radar. Whether testing unconventional narrative formats, employing unusual filming techniques, or using unknowns or non-actors, typical festival fare is anything but what we’ve come to expect at the multiplex.

Review: 'Walk Away Renee' A Manic, Deep Look Into Mother & Son

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • June 27, 2012 12:09 PM
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Born out of a truck load of home videos, answering machine recordings, and photographs, Jonathan Caouette's 2003 autobiographical "Tarnation" was a dearly personal and often frightening, no holds-barred look into a family torn apart by a tortured past. Cobbled together with iMovie before YouTube was even a twinkle in a vlogger's eye, the film bleeds honesty and its fearless look at the subjects (including the director himself) can be downright terrifying at times. But it wasn't just a family arguing or bitterly digging into old wounds -- Caouette had a manic, assaulting editing style and a penchant for some truly disturbing experimental sequences, an aesthetic that exhibited their emotional states in a fresh, genuinely perturbing way.

Review: The South Will Rise, But Not Like You Expected, In The Pagan, Powerful 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'

  • By James Rocchi
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  • June 26, 2012 4:02 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Written and directed by Benh Zeitlin, whose short, "Glory at Sea," was shot through with purpose and promise, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is as stirring and striking a film as you could wish for. Shot and set in a Louisiana community called The Bathtub, on the wrong side of the levees that stop the water from encroaching on civilization, it's at heart the story of a little girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry).

L.A. Film Fest Review: 'It's A Disaster' Is A Darkly Hilarious Apocalyptic Dramedy That's Anything But Disastrous

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 26, 2012 10:58 AM
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Real time, one setting films are a tricky feat to pull off, stumping even some of the most accomplished directors (have you seen “Carnage”?), but Todd Berger does it with panache in his directorial sophomore feature, a clever take on the apocalypse film, “It’s A Disaster.” Assembling a cast of eight actors in one house for a film that’s part relationship dramedy and part end of the world movie, Berger keeps the setting fresh and the pace moving in this film that takes a humorous look at the problems both epic and trivial that threaten to ruin lives. Based on the raptuous response from packed houses at the Los Angeles Film Festival this week, Berger and co. have succeeded in spades.

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