The House


Orgy or: the Man Who Gave Birth

The story of Boca do Lixo filmmaking began a few years before any of its movies. In 1962, The Given Word, the story of a man who becomes a local hero for demanding entry into a church despite authority's refusal, became the first Brazilian film to win the Palme D'Or at Cannes. The film insightfully analyzed Brazilian social inequalities of religion, gender, class, and race, but also humanized its characters well enough to give the film mass appeal. In a way similar to how Rashomon's top prize at Venice a decade earlier created a profile for Japanese cinema in the West, The Given Word's prize alerted European cultural elites to Brazilian film.

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TAGS: antonio das mortes, black god white devil, glauber rocha, international film festival rotterdam, joao silverio trevisan, luis buñuel, orgy or the man who gave birth, oswald de andrade, rashômon, robert bresson, rogerio sganzerla, the given word, vidas secas


Wild Nothing

Wild Nothing, "Nowhere." While "Nowhere" features Jack Tatum's distinct vocals, the tracks' production and overall instrumentation are obviously upgraded from the likes of the echo-y Golden Haze EP, the last batch of songs Tatum released under his Wild Nothing moniker. Surprisingly, "Nowhere" is downright jangle-pop, with a twangy, lighthearted tone that's miles away from the C86-inspired jams of Tatum's past work. With a hint of twee sentimentality, a dash of accordion chic, and a little help from Twin Sister's dainty-voiced Andrea Estella, "Nowhere" calls for constant reminders that it's not a Tatum side project, simply Wild Nothing heading in a new, conceivably wonderful direction. Mike LeChevallier

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TAGS: andrea estella, blood orange, champagne toast, dev hynes, house playlist, ima read, jack tatum, mike simonetti, njena reddd foxxx, nowhere, wild nothing, zebra katz


Damien Bona

Author Damien Bona, who I met some 15 years ago right out of NYU and humbled me not long after by thanking me in the pages of Inside Oscar 2, passed away yesterday at the age of 57. He will be missed for his wit, sensitivity, and bringing sanity to the yearly Oscar chatter.

Why Viola Davis gets it right.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky reviews HBO's Luck.

Why has Lana Del Rey's reinvention caused such a stir?

Armie Hammer is going places.

Peet Gelderblom re-cuts Brian De Palma's Raising Cain.

How the Academy Awards slant our views of movies.

What were the gayest (and straightest) Super Bowl halftime shows?

Ben Marcus urges writers to march on the enemy.

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TAGS: academy awards, armie hammer, bad girls, ben marcus, brian de palma, damien bona, hbo, ignatiy vishnevetsky, inside oscar 2, lana del rey, luck, m.i.a., madonna, meryl streep, peet gelderblom, raising cain, super bowl, viola davis


Easy, Betty White

The Help cleaned up and Jean Dujardin pulled an upset at last night's Screen Actors Guild awards.

In other news of The Artist's march toward Oscar, Michel Hazanavicius beat out Fincher, Allen, Scorsese, and Payne at Saturday's DGA awards.

This year's Sundance Film Festival winners have also been announced.

A look back at the film and art career of the Eiffel Tower, a 122-year-old movie star prepping for her facelift.

Matt Zoller Seitz recaps the latest episode of HBO's Luck.

Over the weekend, Mitt Romney widened his lead over Newt Gingrich.

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TAGS: blake lively, david bordwell, directors guild of america, hbo, jean dujardin, luck, m.i.a., madonna, matt zoller seitz, michel hazanavicius, mitt romney, newt gingrich, nicki minaj, rick perry, rooney mara, screen actors guild, steven soderbergh, sundance film festival, the artist, the help


small roads

As modest and self-explanatory as its lower-case title suggests, small roads is James Benning's latest contemplation of American landscape as an awesome man-made sculpture. In contrast to RR, which was focused on moving railway vehicles, small roads examines the ways in which paths—firmly asserted in asphalt and only occasionally traversed—shape the visible world.

Shot with digital camera over the course of two years (even as Benning was working on other projects), the movie arrives barely annotated, so that you need the director himself to point out its underlying geographical journey—starting in California and headed first to the South, then to the Midwest. What we see are 47 immobile shots of roads in a roughly organized order that follows the succession of the seasons. At first, the structuring principle seems to be that each shot has one moving car in it before the image peters out. It comes as a minor shock, then, when shot number eight ends with no vehicle appearance whatsoever. From then on, all bets are off—in a manner of speaking.

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TAGS: 11 x 14, 13 lakes, frederick wiseman, international film festival rotterdam, james benning, rr, small roads


Pilot

Ace: Generally, how'd he look?

Gus: What do I know, Ace? All four of his legs reach the ground.

That exchange, between two of the leads on the new HBO series Luck, concerns Pint of Plain, the race horse that Chester "Ace" Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) owns by way of his driver and bodyguard Gus Demetriou (Dennis Farina). Gus is fronting for Ace, who's recently been released from prison and can't legally own a horse until he's off parole. But he knows as much about horse racing as most viewers probably do—which is to say, not much. Those expecting to get a primer on the sport will be disappointed by Luck's first episode, written by creator David Milch (Deadwood) and directed by his co-executive producer, Michael Mann. But that's not a criticism; what Milch and Mann have always been most effective at is getting to the substance of a specific subculture through stylistic means.

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TAGS: david milch, dennis farina, dustin hoffman, hbo, jill hennessy, john ortiz, luck, massive attack, michael mann, nick nolte, richard kind, splitting the atom, tom payne


Room 514

Sharon Bar-Ziv's debut feature, shot over the course of five days after an intense period of rehearsals, strives for a handheld immediacy and raw emotional power that it only intermittently achieves. More than anything else, Room 514 plays like a stripped-down, if not downright impoverished, version of A Few Good Men, in which an army newcomer's zeal is pitted against the unwritten, near-atavistic code of old timers and their ruthlessly programmed minions.

When Anna (Asia Neifeld), a Russian-born Israeli soldier serving as an MP, starts to interrogate members of an elite "Samaria Wolves" battalion about an alleged incident of excessive anti-Palestinian violence, she opens a can of worms quite impossible to handle. A young woman standing up to her supposed peers, she has to deal with a torrent of verbal abuse, ranging from sexist remarks ("You cunt") to political allegations ("You leftie") to ethnic slurs ("You little Russian"). Her dignity undermined but her resolve undaunted, Anna grows steadier in her sense of purpose after one of the soldiers decides to cooperate. But then things take a unexpectedly tragic turn.

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TAGS: asia neifeld, in treatment, international film festival rotterdam, nadav lapid, policeman, room 514, sharon bar-ziv


The Option

In the 1960s, a branch of Brazilian cinema emerged so daring, thrilling, and varied that in hindsight people disagreed even over what to call it. For critic-filmmaker Jairo Ferreira, who chronicled the movement, its unconventional narratives and formal audacity made it the "cinema of invention"; for filmmaker-critic Glauber Rocha, briefly a member but chiefly part of the rival Cinema Novo movement, its films were "udigrudi," a Brazilian spin on the American underground. The consensus term, finally, was Cinema Marginal, and though many of the movement's titles were censored by Brazil's military dictatorship, it meant marginal and not marginalized. To be marginalized implies a passive victimization; to be marginal can—and often did—suggest a proud self-definition.

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TAGS: boca do lixo, carlos reichenbach, cinema novo, cinemateca brasileira, gabe klinger, gerwin tamsma, glauber rocha, international film festival rotterdam, jairo ferreira, ozualdo candeias, rogerio sganzerla, sao paulo, the option, the red light bandit


Beasts of the Southern Wild

As a Southern-gothic fairy tale about post-Katrina New Orleans, Beasts of the Southern Wild could have easily turned out to be a crass and unwittingly exploitative work. Co-writer/director Ben Zeitlin's fanciful approach to his understandably touchy subject matter theoretically seems glib. Thankfully, every time Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar threaten to oversimplify their story with mawkishly twee sentimentality, they steer the film's elemental narrative in another direction. The hopefulness that viewers take away from the film, the most buzzed-about title at this year's Sundance, feels earned thanks to Zeitlin and Alibar's focus on their characters' fears of imminent abandonment and annihilation. As a film about the seductive and essential power of hope, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a warm, accomplished, and fitting tribute to the fighting spirit of New Orleans.

This is the film you might get if Terry Gilliam conflated David Gordon Green's George Washington with Alice in Wonderland. We follow Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year-old girl that lives with her single father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in a remote region of New Orleans only referred to as "The Bathtub." Since Hushpuppy spends much of her time by herself, all of her fears are filtered through a convoluted system of icons and symbols. This proves that she's a product of her environment. She listens to animals and people's hearts because her father has a heart condition, fears cannibalism after a Bathtub resident teaches her that all living things are "meat," and even fantasizes about wild rampaging boars because Wink has a big fat black hog on his farm.

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TAGS: alexis dziena, alice in wonderland, beasts of the southern wild, ben zeitlin, david gordon green, dwight henry, eric judor, george washington, jack plotnick, lucy alibar, quentin dupieux, quvenzhane wallis, sundance film festival, terry gilliam, william fichtner, wrong


Poster Lab: The Words

The WordsBradley Cooper is an actor in a fairly common predicament. He's blessed with movie-star looks, yet he still needs to play characters with non-movie-star occupations. For Cooper, this is especially problematic, since it's tough to imagine him doing much of anything besides looking handsome, staying handsome, and watching televised sports. So right off the bat, there's an element of unintended comedy to the poster for The Words, which etches Cooper's face out of printing-press type because his character's a writer.

Something is up in Hollywood. This is the second movie in two years to cast Cooper as a working author (the other was the gonzo, pro-drug "drama" Limitless). What is it about Cooper that makes him seem, to filmmakers, like a plausible wordsmith? The slightly-boho shaggy hair? The serious arch of his pointed nose? That he was the small dash of brains in The Hangover's Wolfpack? The synopsis for The Words describes Cooper's character as "a writer at the peak of his literary success." At the risk of looking at things in stone-cold, stereotypical terms, that's not unlike casting Tara Reid to play an archaeologist.

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TAGS: 310 to yuma, bradley cooper, limitless, old west, olivia wilde, poster lab, posters, sherlock holmes, tara reid, the hangover, the words, zoe saldana







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