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The Playlist

NYFF ’11 Review: ‘Pina’ Is A Gorgeously Photographed, Three-Dimensional Sleeping Pill

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 9, 2011 5:30 AM
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  • 5 Comments
It’s strange to be truly startled and taken aback by the powerful effects of properly utilized 3D not in some Hollywood blockbuster where half of a major Midwestern American city is blown to smithereens by giant transforming robots, but during a quiet, understated, impressionistic documentary/tribute to influential German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch (directed by Wim Wenders, no less). In fact, this might be the most amazingly you-are-there use of the technology since James Cameron landed us on Pandora. It’s just that, along with the fantastical visas and bounding, leaping, protruding dancers, you wish that the movie were more than just pretty. Sadly, it’s not. And boring is boring, even while wearing silly plastic specs.

NYFF '11 Review: Bela Tarr's Swan Song 'The Turin Horse' Is Despairing But Unforgettable

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 9, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 2 Comments
If the name Béla Tarr rings any sort of bell in your head, chances are you've already formed an unwavering opinion of his work. He hasn't exactly shaken up his approach since 1988's "Damnation" (that said, this writer -- probably like most -- isn't familiar with his crop of '90s short films), and if despairing (yet deeply moving) minimalist films composed of stark black-and-white single takes doesn't tickle your fancy, this film won't change your mind.

VIFF '11: Thai Existentialist Hitman Film 'Headshot' Proves The Genre Still Has A Pulse

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 8, 2011 3:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The hitman genre has been done to death. If cinema can be a reflection of the times we live in, and a recorded piece of history of what the filmmakers are concerned with at the time of inception and production, then it’s amazing any of us are still alive. When done well, the genre can be a lot of fun – as well as dramatic, escapist, cool and artful – but there’s just too many professional killers running amok in the movies.

NYFF '11 Review: 'Sleeping Sickness' A Morality Tale That Doesn't Fulfill Its Promise

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 8, 2011 2:10 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Poor Ulrich Köhler. His first feature "Bungalow" was a quiet, very reserved tale about a young soldier going AWOL. Instead of finishing his service, he gives into lethargy, laying around and doing nothing while hoping the military doesn't catch up with him. Once he's introduced to his brother's sweetheart, he finally finds his purpose: get in her pants at all costs. No, it wasn't terribly ambitious, but it was a relatively solid debut and was interesting enough to make those who actually saw it keep an eye on the new German filmmaker. Four years passed and finally his sophomore picture "Windows On Monday" was unleashed with a whimper. This film -- about a wife rejecting her routine middle-class life and responsibilities -- saw the director slightly refining his style, but also failing to make a truly deep impression in its festival run. Neither of these films were bad (in fact, this writer quite liked 'Windows'), but their meandering nature and unattractive simplicity didn't do them any favors when pitted against things like "The Free Will" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" at Berlinale. The ante had to be upped. Sensing this, Köhler uprooted and went to Africa for his latest endeavor. Would a fresh landscape invigorate his sauntering aesthetic? Now that his German brethren are stirring conversation and acclaim with their "Dreileben" trilogy series, it's an even greater chance to finally catch the attention of festival goers. Unfortunately, "Sleeping Sickness" is a lot like his previous films, much to its own detriment.

NYFF '11 Review: 'Once Upon A Time In Anatolia' A Masterful, Slow-Burn Epic

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 8, 2011 1:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Minimalist art filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan spent a long time crafting very personal and breathtakingly photographed tales. His work has never been big on plot, nor have they ever been anything other than glacially paced. Indeed, his general aesthetic isn't very welcoming to the impatient, though those willing to give their attention are always struck by something special. His black and white debut "The Town" is a real toughie, containing less of a story and more of a collection of moments -- but without the presence of a narrative, Ceylan is free to discover and exhibit universal beauty that isn't dependent on deep characters or drama. A "scene" in a classroom becomes magical when a feather floats into the room, with a few children continually blowing it to stay in the air. Let the tales be told elsewhere, because without being too pretentious, this was life he was capturing in its most undiluted form.

VIFF '11 Review: 'I Wish' The Rare Example Of A Great Kids Film That Actually Understands Kids

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • October 7, 2011 6:02 AM
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  • 3 Comments
The frustrating thing about most modern "kids films" is that many filmmakers seem like lost balls in tall grass when it comes to portraying what makes children tick. Perhaps it's tougher than we imagine to capture the youth/kid experience, but is it just us or does it seem like nearly all child characters in movies exist in some bizarro world where they're smarter than the all the adults, know just the right thing to say at every moment and hardly ever act like, you know, kids? (See every American indie and Hollywood rom-com from the last 10 years for examples of this annoying, ridiculous trend). That's why, when a thoughtful, intelligent director takes the reins of such a film, one that actually remembers and respects what it was like to be a kid, the result can be so refreshing. In the best examples of the genre from recent memory -- "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Super 8" (which, this writer only found to be half a great movie, the great half being the portion involving kids being kids, making movies; it's impossible to deny the skill of those actors and their characterizations) -- the filmmakers decided from the outset to make a proper film first and foremost. The fact that the story is played out with children as our main characters is almost a moot point. Almost.

Review: 'Dirty Girl' With Juno Temple Is All Attitude & No Heart

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 7, 2011 3:07 AM
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  • 2 Comments
If there's one thing "Dirty Girl" has going for it -- and it's made abundantly clear even before the glittery title card, spelled out in swoopy, neon-lit letters like the name of a roller disco -- it's that it has attitude. The titular dirty girl is an Oklahoma teen named Danielle (Juno Temple) who acts out in class and sleeps around. She has an infectiously "fuck you" approach to just about everything, from her classmates, agog at her sexual promiscuity, to her soon-to-be stepdad (William H. Macy), to her teachers, who bump her down to a remedial class where the most pressing assignment is taking care of a bag of flour like it's an actual human baby.

Review: 'Blackthorn' Catches Up With A Retirement-Ready Butch Cassidy

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 7, 2011 2:07 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The following is a reprint of our review from Fantasia.
More: Review

NYFF ’11 Review: ‘Paradise Lost 3’ Is Utterly Compelling, But Still Ethically Messy At Times

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • October 6, 2011 8:37 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Few movies have a conclusion as out-of-nowhere, compelling and yet strange as the one featured in "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory." What makes this finale even more exceptional is the fact that the film is a documentary and that this unexpected coda wasn't dreamed up inside the head of an imaginative screenwriter, but a surprise twist that occurred in these dramatic real life events.

Review: Imperfect Yet Understated & Tender 'Swell Season' Digs Under The Skin Of 'Once' Co-Stars

  • By Mark Zhuravsky
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  • October 6, 2011 7:37 AM
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  • 0 Comments
“Once” was the little movie that could get you out of a rut, provided the mind and heart remained open to the maudlin yet unstrained love that sprung up between a guitar player and a flower seller of few words. Much of the film’s success can be justifiably attributed to the immense charm of the two leads, Irishman Glen Hansard and the Czech-born Markéta Irglová, whose effortless musicality and chemistry lent the film a lived-in feel that bigger budgeted studio fare would kill for. The film was a surprising success that culminated in an emotional Oscar win for its leads and their song “Falling Slowly,” recorded by the duo as The Swell Season.
More: Review

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