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The Playlist

Karlovy Vary Film Fest Review: Lifers Imitate Art In Prison-Set Shakespearean Docudrama 'Caesar Must Die'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 2, 2012 1:56 PM
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  • 0 Comments
In a prison in Rome, real-life convicts prepare to mount a production of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and as the night of the public performance draws nearer, their real lives and the play’s narrative conflate to the point of indistinguishability. So runs an approximate logline for the Taviani brothers’ “Caesar Must Die” which arrived at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival trailing glowing reviews and the Golden Bear from Berlin in its wake. And given that summation, it’s easy to see why it won – there are few themes more festival-friendly than the interrelatedness of art and life. But there’s a difference between suggesting that such a relation exists and exploring or commenting on its nature, a difference the veteran directors, and the more breathless of the film’s admirers, seem only sporadically to acknowledge.

Karlovy Vary Film Fest Review: Fascinating Subject Almost Trumps Staid Format In ‘Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell To Earth 1971-1977’

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • July 2, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
A documentary about just 6 years out of a 42-odd year career, that runs two-and-a-half hours long and rarely strays from bog-standard talking head/rote archive footage format? Yes, it sounds unbearable, and probably would be were its subject anyone but Brian Eno, a definite, no-joke candidate for The Most Interesting Man In The World (sorry, Senor Dos Equis), at a period in his life which was arguably his most creative. (Very arguably, and we’d probably be the ones to argue, having had some exposure to the Eno of the ‘80s, ‘90s and today).

Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Is A Good Teen Romance Struggling To Escape A Mediocre Superhero Movie

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 29, 2012 3:34 PM
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  • 10 Comments
We're likely reaching something of a tipping point with the superhero movies. The first wave is ending: "X-Men" has already been reinvented, Superman is getting his second relaunch in a decade, "The Hulk" has already had its third iteration, and Christopher Nolan's Batman-trilogy, which more than anything else brought a new level of respectability to the genre, is coming to a close. We're entering the second phase of the modern superhero movie era, and it's leading to some interesting possibilities. So far, these films have essentially been a genre in and of themselves, but as new filmmakers inevitably try out fresh ideas within its confines, we're likely to see other styles brought into the mix.

Review: 'Granito: How To Nail A Dictator' A Remarkable Tale About The Quest For Justice

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • June 28, 2012 6:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
We're living in something of a golden era of documentary filmmaking. Whether on the big screen, and more frequently on cable -- where a plethora of specialty channels offer a variety of outlets -- documentaries can more easily reach an audience than ever before. But are they making an impact? It seems that every doc that comes along is pushing some kind of issue or agenda, but that little of that is felt once the credits roll ninety minutes later. But every now and then comes a movie that shakes the ground just a little bit, and not only opens eyes, but inspires action and "Granito: How To Nail A Dictator" is a remarkable chronicle of one film that did just that.

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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  • 0 Comments
“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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  • 0 Comments
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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  • 0 Comments
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.

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