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Thompson on Hollywood

Now and Then: Dunham's 'Tiny Furniture' Bodes Well for HBO's 'Girls'

Lena Dunham in her sophomore feature, "Tiny Furniture"
Midway through "Tiny Furniture," writer-director-star Lena Dunham launches into a monologue — a tantrum, really — that smacks of a tin ear. The plaintive wails seem ginned up for "dramatic effect," though the real effect is to undercut the film's poignant understanding of how scary "coming-of-age" sounds to those going through it.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • February 13, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 1 Comment

Now and Then: 'The Getaway' and 'Drive' — Heist Films with Arthouse Roots

To call "The Getaway" (1972) a heist flick is like calling "Jaws" a film about fish: technically speaking you'd be right, but you'd also be missing the point entirely. Sam Peckinpah's Steve McQueen/Ali MacGraw vehicle is a tough, mean, innovative picture in which "getting away" has to do with a lot more than not getting arrested.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • February 6, 2012 1:40 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Now and Then: Making Sense of Miranda July

I am not a Miranda July hater. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (2005) felt almost painfully fresh to me — I'd never seen anything like it. It had, in offbeat colors and patterns, a preternatural understanding that love and sex vibrate on wavelengths we can't quite see or hear, only sense.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • January 30, 2012 12:46 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Now and Then: In Political Films, Reality Trumps Fiction

"The Ides of March," George Clooney's latest directorial effort, promises by its very title a mixture of danger, betrayal, and warped power. What we get, though, is more disquisition than thrill ride, a technically sound but ultimately unfeeling film about the cynicism of modern politics.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • January 23, 2012 4:39 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: In Directing Debut, Farmiga Reaches 'Higher Ground'

"Higher Ground," the actress Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, plays like a fugue. It circles back and folds in on itself, its repeated images — a children's book, worshippers in song, immersion in water — propelled not by forward momentum but by changes of key.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • January 16, 2012 12:42 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Now and Then: In 'Contagion' and 'Children of Men,' Disaster Runs Cold and Hot

The opening minutes of "Contagion" are all surface, literally. A bowl of peanuts on the bartop, a swiped credit card, an elevator button, the human hand: each is a vector of death itself, a pandemic already in motion. With the rasp of a cough, a title card tells us we're in "Day 2." It's terrifying.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • January 9, 2012 11:02 AM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: Why The Descendants Should Win Best Picture

"The Descendants" starts slow, muddied by voiceover and unclear intentions. But it soon sneaks up on you, deepening — ripening, really — until it achieves something approaching wisdom.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • December 30, 2011 2:55 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Now and Then: Two Docs Test the Limits of What We Know About Those We Love

On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler left the New York campground where she was vacationing and began her trip home to Long Island with her two children and three nieces in tow.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • December 26, 2011 2:22 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Now and Then: For Woody Allen, the Place is the Thing, from Manhattan to Midnight in Paris

When asked about Woody Allen's New York, critics often cite the glorious black-and-white Gershwin cinepoem that opens “Manhattan” (1979). I’ve always been partial, though, to the rough magic of Diane Keaton’s terrible driving in “Annie Hall” (1977). (See clips below.)
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • December 19, 2011 12:16 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: With Recent Controversies, Maybe Critics Matter?

Something changed this week. As the days passed, each became part of a snowballing narrative about critics that seemed to me to portend a future less than bright. The New York Critics pandered to the Oscar horse race and ended up muffing the whole deal, losing their one chance a year to go out on a limb. AT’s criticism of the latest incarnation of “At the Movies” ignited the usual mixed bag of fury. And now David Denby’s gone and broken Sony’s review embargo on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • December 5, 2011 11:22 AM
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  • 2 Comments

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