The House


Ted

Seth MacFarlene releases his first feature on the world this weekend in the form of Ted, a transgressive raunchfest in which the writer/director voices the fuzzy, f-bomb-dropping title character. Longtime pal and enabler of Mark Wahlberg's man-boy, Ted may be the screen's most naughty plush companion, but he owes a certain debt to his cuddly, uh, forebears. Some of these characters (don't call them props!) make only brief appearances, while others prove central to the story being told. Either way, they've leapt from the uncertainty of the toy-store shelf to the immortality of film, assuming the roles of confidant, booby trap, and even surveillance vessel. Next time you snuggle up with your childhood friend, remember these teddy bear stars, who strive to prove there's more to them than mere fluff.

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TAGS: 15 famous, a.a. milne, a.i. artificial intelligence, alfie, brideshead revisited, cape fear, care bears, dakota fanning, denzel washington, drew barrymore, evelyn waugh, firestarter, frank oz, jim henson, labyrinth, mac and me, man on fire, meg ryan, michael caine, nora ephron, paddington bear, sleepless in seattle, stanleykubrick, steven spielberg, ted, the muppet movie, the muppets, the nanny diaries, toy story 3, winnie the pooh


Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike opens today and Manohla Dargis, Armond White, and Richard Brody chime in.

How William Faulkner tackled race—and freed the South from itself.

New Oscar rules allow multiple songwriters, incorproate hair styling.

Iran urged to halt executions for alcohol consumption.

Brooklyn's McCarren Park Pool is no longer a crudy concert venue but a pool again (more photos of hipsters and pregnant laides swimming at the iconic landmark here).

J. Hoberman recognizes something in Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

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TAGS: academy awards, armond white, brooklyn, cinema scope, ignatiy vishnevetsky, iran, j. hoberman, magic mike, manohla dargis, mccarren park pool, michael shannon, olympic games, poetry, popmatters, rainer werner fassbinder, richard brody, times square, william faulkner


Doomsday Book

Since its relatively humble beginnings at Anthology Film Archives (not to mention the long-defunct ImaginAsian), the New York Asian Film Festival has emerged as quite possibly the most sheer fun of all the major New York film festivals. Go to just about any one of its screenings—especially any one introduced by Grady Hendrix, one of its founders and still its official voice—and you'll immediately be startled by its proudly rowdy spirit, a far cry from the usual buttoned-up "official" nature of most other film festivals. Plus, there are the prizes that Hendrix and his fellow Subway Cinema cohorts often give out at screenings.

Above all, though, it's the selection of films—with a marked emphasis on genre pictures and other sorts of unabashedly commercial entertainments—that distinguish the NYAFF from other film festivals of its type, especially in New York. In its desire to encompass a wide range of cinema in China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and other Asian countries, the festival is unafraid to juxtapose popular cinema with artier fare. Freed from the shackles of what programmers deem worthy of passing through the festival circuit, the folks at the nonprofit organization Subway Cinema present a more varied and complete view of the kinds of movies being made in these countries. If you thought, for instance, that the only kinds of films coming out of China or Taiwan were the kinds of slow-paced, long-take-saturated dramas by the likes of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jia Zhang-ke, and others, then one should make a beeline for this year's Independence Day screening of the complete two-part Taiwanese epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, a grand spectacle in the mold of executive producer John Woo's own Red Cliff. Either that, or give Giddens Ko's highly successful (at the box office, at least) romantic comedy You Are the Apple of My Eye a shot.

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TAGS: a simple life, ann hui, choi min-sik, donnie yen, doomsday book, eita, five fingers of death, grady hendrix, grandmaster y. k. kim, guns nroses, i saw the devil, japan cuts, japan society, jiayin lei, john woo, kim jee-woon, kim kang-woo, monsters club, new york asian film festival, ning hao, oldboy, park woo-sung, peter chan, subway cinema, takeshi kaneshiro, tao hong, the miami connection, toshiaki toyoda, walter reade theater, warriors of the rainbow seediq bale


Supreme court

The Supreme Court lets Obama's health law laregely stand (click here for the full decision.)

David Denby defends Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom.

Lady Gaga invites you to her funeral with "Princess Die."

The influential director and his longtime music supervisor Randall Poster talk about the sound and vision of their latest collaboration, Moonrise Kingdom.

Anna Tatarska interviews Benh Zeitlin.

Emmy's longform shakeup a sign of times.

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TAGS: aaron sorkin, anna tatarska, barack obama, beasts of the southern wild, benh zeitlin, breaking bad, david bordwell, david denby, film art an introduction, google, lady gaga, moonrise kingdom, new york subway, news corp., nexus 7, princess die, randall poster, rupert murdoch, salvation army, supreme court of the united states, the newsroom, wes anderson


Anna KareninaHow to sell a Keira Knightley period romance and still distinguish it from every other Keira Knightley period romance? For Focus Features' Anna Karenina, the answer is proudly touting spectacle while employing markedly modern embellishments. The eighth major screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel, and the fifth film from hit-or-miss Brit Joe Wright, this spare-no-expense movie wears its grandiosity on its ruffled sleeve, as the recently released trailer certainly attests.

The poster is at once overstuffed, dazzling, tacky, evocative, arrogant, and perfect. Like a shot of an antique shop raided by the royal court and Chris Van Allsburg, it blends opulent production design with near-absurdist block font, which serves to communicate the clout of the story, its endurance in modern times, a diva sensibility, and even the wintry Russia setting, reflected in the gleam of those imposing, towering letters. Positioning its elements on a glitzy stage to boot, the image promises precisely what the trailer does in all those shots of swirling sparks and beating fans: a slick and swoony costume drama of almost goofy proportions.

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TAGS: aaron johnson, adam levine, atonement, baz luhrmann, chris van allsburg, donna karan, hanna, joe wright, jude law, keira knightley, leo tolstoy, moulin rouge, poster lab, posters, pride and prejudice, the soloist


Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron, an essayist and humorist in the Dorothy Parker mold who became one of her era's most successful screenwriters and filmmakers, making romantic comedy hits like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally..., died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71.

David Hudson collects remembrances.

James Joyce's chance encounters.

Chuck Norris wants the Boy Scouts to stay anti-gay.

New polls show Obama leading Romney in swing states.

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TAGS: a.o. scott, barack obama, beasts of the southern wild, benh zeitlin, boy scouts of america, chuck norris, coffee, david hudson, james joyce, kevin b. lee, lana del rey, matthew porterfield, mitt romney, national anthem, nora ephron, sleepless in seattle, transylmania, when harry met sally...


Call Me Kuchu

Imagine being a gay person in modern-day Uganda: Nearly 95% of the population despises your lifestyle, the government supports an extreme Anti-Homosexuality Bill that threatens life imprisonment (and worse), and a local gossip rag named Rolling Stone has initiated a slanderous witch hunt against you by publishing pictures and home addresses in order to incite anti-gay violence. These are just some of the major obstacles facing human rights activist David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda and the heart of Call Me Kuchu, an essential documentary by filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall about the persecution of homosexuals in the impoverished African nation.

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TAGS: call me kuchu, gilles muhame, human rights watch film festival, john -longjones- abdallah wambere, katherine fairfax wright, malika zouhali-worrall, naome ruzindana, rolling stone, stosh mugisha


Louis C.K.

Get your Louis C.K. tickets while they're hot. Sorry New Yorkers, you're already shit out of luck.

Elbert Ventura reviews Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Elisabeth Moss talks about the Mad Men finale and looks forward to next season.

See Game of Thrones's altered Dubya head.

From Showgirls to Magic Mike, your guide to 50 years of stripper-themed movies.

The meaning of 9/11's most controversial photo.

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TAGS: alfred hitchcock, andrew sarris, beasts of the southern wild, benh zeitlin, david cairns, downton abbey, elbert ventura, elisabeth moss, graumans chinese theatre, jim emerson, louis c.k., mad men, maggie smith, magic mike, moonrise kingdom, shirley maclaine, showgirls, the 39 steps, the artist, uggie, wes anderson


Love & AnarchyLina Wertmüller is a bundle of contradictions: an avowed anarchist who was born into the rarefied upper strata of the Italian aristocracy, a feminist filmmaker unafraid to delve into realms of sexual grotesquerie many self-professed feminists would unhesitatingly anathematize. She imbues her films with the popular (and populist) traditions of commedia all'italiana, a style of humor that traces back to medieval puppet theater—a tradition she trained in extensively. Heiress to the filmmaking legacy of directors like Mario Monicelli and especially Pietro Germi, Wertmüller fuses together high-minded political seriousness and a gleeful delight in transgressive lowbrow comedy. Wertmüller also displays a fundamental fascination with the finely tuned communicative potential of bodily gestures and facial expressions, even when they're expressed in flamboyantly histrionic and broadly comedic fashion, often employing as a result the kinds of extreme facial close-ups usually identified with the films of Sergio Leone.

After taking on political corruption and the Sicilian mafia with her first international success, The Seduction of Mimi, Wertmüller set her sights on the bad old days of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime in Love & Anarchy, a sort of costume tragicomedy that reunites the stars of the previous film, Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato. Giannini plays Tunin, an ugly-duckling bumpkin who journeys to Rome in order to assassinate Mussolini after his friend, whose mission it was originally, is murdered by Il Duce's secret police. Even though we witness the aftermath of this killing early on (what starts as a bucolic pan across a riverside idyll turns horrific when the shot ends on the image of a man's body draped over low-hanging tree boughs), Wertmüller holds back until late in the film the reality behind Tunin's motivation, that he's nothing more than a hayseed out for revenge and in way over his head.

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TAGS: all screwed up, benito mussolini, berlin symphony of a city, blood of the beasts, eros pagni, georges franju, giancarlo giannini, giuliana calandra, giuseppe rotunno, heaven's gate, isa danieli, lina polito, lina wertmuller, love and anarchy, luigi diberti, luis buñuel, mack sennett, mariangela melato, mario monicelli, michael cimino, nino bignamini, pietro germi, pina cei, renato rotondo, sara rapisardi, sergio leone, the seduction of mimi, viridiana


On the Edge

In 1954, William Burroughs wrote that "Tangier is a vast overstocked market, everything for sale and no buyers." Half a century later, circumstances in the city may have changed, but that same sentiment finds itself modulated by a cab driver as he tosses a portentous glance to Badia (Soufia Issami) and tells her that "Tangier only gives to foreigners." The protagonist of Moroccan writer-director Leila Kilani's On the Edge, Badia is a young woman who's moved from Casablanca to Tangier to make a living. Hoping one day to land a job in the more prestigious factories of the city's Free Zone, we see her at work in a less glamorous shrimp processing facility, where the sterile whitespace is marred by the orangish slime and grime of piles of shrimp shells. That kind of grime permeates the film and the dingy, noirish urban environments that Badia wends her way through.

Badia isn't a personable or empathetic character, but as the driving force of the story, her behavior is a fascinating display. She seems continuously possessed by a hyperactive, twitchy nervousness, and her thoughts come across to us not via the steady drip of personal reflection, but in salvos, through internal and external monologues that serve as bursts of consciousness from a stormy mind. Everyone around her can sense the jagged edges of her personality; at work she's told that she may have mastered all the parts of the process, but "you don't fit in with the other girls." She's well aware of this, and doesn't plan to stick around; she has other goals in mind. The web of intrigue that drives the film comes from the other side of her life; in the evenings she goes out with her friend, Imane (Mouna Bahmad), parties with strange men, and then steals from them. On one of these encounters they meet another pair of girls, the thievery escalates, and complications ensue inside and outside the Free Zone.

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TAGS: abdelkarim benhabboucha, albert camus, aphichai trakulphadejkrai, catherine sola, claude debussy, gianni amelio, gillo pontecorvo, jacques gamblin, kongdej jaturanrasmee, leila kilani, los angeles film festival, midi z, mouna bahmad, nino jouglet, on the edge, p-047, parinya kwamwongwan, return to burma, soufia issami, the battle of algiers, the first man, wang shin-hong, william burroughs







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