BAMcinemaFest 2016 Tim Sutton’s Dark Night

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BAMcinemaFest 2016: Tim Sutton’s Dark Night

Film Factory

BAMcinemaFest 2016: Tim Sutton’s Dark Night

The first four images of Dark Night, Tim Sutton's contemplation of civilian gun violence in America, have a fragmentary precision that's gutting. First, a girl's eye is studied in close-up as red and blue light—seemingly the incandescence of either a movie screen or fireworks—flashes over it. Then, streaks of refracted red light blink rhythmically across the top of a dark frame, forcing us to reconsider the source of the initial glow as potentially that of a police siren, followed by a shot of a larger red smear, underneath which a distant American flag slowly waves. This sequence is capped off by a wider angle of the girl, who's sullenly slumped on some grass at the side of a road as the unfocused legs of onlookers bob in the background and ambulance sirens creep into the otherwise hushed soundscape.

Summer of ’91 Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

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Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

Universal Pictures

Summer of ’91: Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever

The interracial love story that anchors Jungle Fever is the least interesting element of Spike Lee's 1991 joint. It's the dull circle from which more compelling plot tangents offshoot. While the director is game for a surface-level exploration of the trials and tribulations of forbidden love, his once-controversial subject matter is merely a selling point designed to get asses into theater seats. Once Lee hooks his audience with the promise of sin, he pivots his social commentary to a tragic secondary character, just as Douglas Sirk did in Imitation of Life. This is appropriate, because Jungle Fever is the equivalent of a 1950s message picture. Expertly wielding his influences, Lee throws a dash of Delbert Mann and a soupcon of Stanley Kramer into the proceedings. Though the outcome is at times woefully dated, it's also the origin of several ideas Lee would return to in subsequent films.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards"

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards"

“Battle of the Bastards” opens with a pitch-covered cannonball being lit afire and then launched at Meereen, suggesting the vast number of pieces and the human effort that goes into an epic battle. It then cuts between a calm dragon's-eye view and chaotic stabbings in the streets, demonstrating how violence is merely a matter of perspective and proximity. The culminating sequence isn't the ululating horde of Dothraki charging the city, nor all three of Daenerys's (Emilia Clarke) dragons beginning to immolate the Masters' fleet, but rather Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) informing a Masters triumvirate, including his former owner, Yezzan zo Qaggaz (Enzo Cilenti), that as a result of breaking of their pact, one of the three of them will now have to die. “It always seems a bit abstract, doesn't it?” Tyrion asks. “Other people dying.”

Feminist Satire on Late Night Television Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

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Feminist Satire on Late Night Television: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Comedy Central

Feminist Satire on Late Night Television: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Shortly before the premiere of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Vanity Fair published a cover photo featuring “all of the titans of late night television.” Effectively editing the only female late-night comedy host out of the lineup, the magazine cover paraded 10 male ambassadors of the genre, three of whom happen to be named Jim (Corden, Fallon, and Kimmel), sipping cocktails and dressed in suits and ties. Samantha Bee set the record straight by tweeting a PhotoShopped version of the image, inserting herself as a laser beam-shooting centaur into the negative space between Corden and John Oliver. Since then, Full Frontal has continued to do just that: fill in the missing links in mainstream news discourse with incisive feminist satire.

BAMcinemaFest 2016 Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine

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BAMcinemaFest 2016: Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine

Grasshopper Films

BAMcinemaFest 2016: Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine

Robert Greene's Kate Plays Christine pivots on several paradoxes: of acting, which involves self-expression via self-effacement; of media, which parasitically feeds on people, offering audiences catharsis while enslaving them with feelings of inferiority; and of the relationship between fiction and nonfiction, which is characterized by an illusion of distinguishability that affirms the greater illusion of the existence of objectivity. These paradoxes bleed into one another in head-spinning fashions in this extraordinarily rich and ambitious film, underlining the subjective fluidity of existence.

One of the commonalities between these paradoxes, as Greene chooses to wrestle with them, is their concern with the perils and limitations of empathy, as the film revolves around several intersecting quests for understanding. Greene follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she wanders Sarasota, Florida attempting to channel, for a film role, the spirit of Christine Chubbuck, a local television news reporter who notoriously committed suicide on the air in 1974, subsequently inspiring Sidney Lumet's Network.

BAMcinemaFest 2016 Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence

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BAMcinemaFest 2016: Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence
BAMcinemaFest 2016: Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence

A tentativeness courses through Ti West's films. Watching them, one often feels as if the filmmaker's approaching a boundary—separating genre trope from searing idiosyncrasy—that he doesn't always manage to cross. West crossed this line in Trigger Man and, fitfully, in The Sacrament, which climaxed with an unsettlingly intimate staging of a Jonestown-like mass poisoning that calls into question the invasiveness of the film's very formality. In these moments, West's reverence for genre filmmaking merged with his gift for behavioral portraiture, fashioning a horror film that felt contemporary in its concern with media as offering only an illusion of “all access” to its subjects.

Watch an Exclusive Clip from César Augusto Acevedo’s Land and Shade

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Watch an Exclusive Clip from César Augusto Acevedo’s Land and Shade

Outsider Pictures

Watch an Exclusive Clip from César Augusto Acevedo’s Land and Shade

In praise of director César Augusto Acevedo's Land and Shade, Slant's Diego Semerene writes: “[The director] props stunning images of man's despairing relationship to the land on the barest of narrative bones, mostly a collection of long shots of characters trying to endure existence without completely shattering. They head to and from work in sugar cane fields, only to be denied their pay; they try to fly a kite on a windless day; and they build feeding tables for birds that never turn up.”