The House


Game of Thrones

Despite being home to the Faceless, the House of Black and White is filled with a variety of visages: statues to the various gods of Westeros. These are at once examples of the Many Faced God whom the Faceless worship and a pointed demonstration that the one true god is the one god who doesn't need to be memorialized in stone—because that god, Death, is already everywhere. It's a fitting setting for Arya (Maisie Williams) as she begins training under No One, the mysterious assassin currently wearing the face and name of Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). It's here that she can begin reclaiming her independence, after seasons of fear and flight, though—ironically—she can only do so by first figuratively murdering herself, casting off all her possessions in service to the god of Death. (There's still a trace of the defiant girl from previous seasons when she chooses to hide her father's final gift to her, Needle, rather than to throw it into the ocean.) It's a perfect example of the erosive effects of tragedy, in that a person can only survive by becoming something else, and not for nothing does Arya spend the majority of this episode silently doing menial tasks, scrubbing away the past.

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TAGS: aidan gillen, dean-charles chapman, dominic carter, eugene simon, game of thrones, gwendoline christie, hbo, high sparrow, iain glen, iwan rheon, kit harington, lena headey, maisie w, Michael McElhatton, natalie dormer, owen teale, paul bentley, peter dinklage, recap, sophie turner, tom wlaschiha


Orphan Black

Tonight's episode of Orphan Black, "Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis," comes all too close to the grievous error of which its title warns. Alone, the phrase, cribbed from Eisenhower's Farewell Address, may suggest light at the end of the tunnel, but in context it's the very sacrifices we make on the altar of expediency that set us up for disaster down the line. "To meet it successfully," Eisenhower says of the Soviet threat, "there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle." Suddenly consumed by the need to explain Project Castor, by its crisis of narrative, Orphan Black seems increasingly willing to jettison the rich characterization of the "sestras" in favor of constructing conspiracies, and "Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis" may be the show's worst episode to date.

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TAGS: alex ozerov, amanda brugel, ari millen, dylan bruce, josh vokey, kevin hanchard, kristian bruun, kyra harper, michiel huisman, natalie krill, orphan black, recap, skyler wexler, Tatiana Maslany, Tom McCamus, transitory sacrifices of crisis


Aloft

There are a lot of things going on in Aloft: difficult Arctic journeys, potentially fraudulent faith healers, falconry, vehicular mishaps, quasi-magical wood sculptures, a frozen landscape that may or may not be linked to some sort of modern ice age. Yet the American debut of Peruvian director Claudia Llosa is also frustratingly stingy with the explanatory details, aiming for an abstruse approach that's more exasperating than mysterious. Gaps are filled in with vague suggestions of new-age mysticism and lots of portentous dialogue, and what results is a tepid, gray-white smudge of a movie, so fixated on offering a deep-freeze depiction of overwhelming emotional trauma that it remains hopelessly inert.

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TAGS: aloft, Cillian Murphy, Claudia Llosa, jennifer connelly, tribeca film festival


Afterim!

The road stretches ever onward in Aferim!, a rustic Romanian period drama that imagines a trek upon this thin stretch of dirt as a running metaphor for the slow crawl of human progress. Tasked with tracking down a runaway Gypsy slave, local constable Costandin (Teodor Corban) heads off with his naïve son, Ionita (Mihai Comanoiu)—two fools plunging into a lively comedy of errors as they carry out their mission, facing off with all manners of human iniquity in the process. Building his story one calamitous run-in at a time, first-time director Radu Jude creates a colorful, Brueghelian patchwork of backwoods peasantry, amid a land menaced by the Ottoman Empire on one side and the Russian on the other, its masses similarly wedged between corrupt lords and their mistreated slaves.

Conveyed in a crisp black and white which at times seems at odds with the crudity it's depicting, the film portrays 1835 Wallachia as a tumultuous place, far from Europe's grand cities or its Enlightenment thinking, where medieval systems of feudal authoritarianism still persist. The clearest recent point of comparison might be Hard to Be a God without the sci-fi framing structure and wild formal experimentation. But where that was a story of history made aggressively alien, Aferim! attempts to pull the past closer to the present, drawing insistent parallels between this crooked, upside-down reality—where cruelty is accepted as a given and money always has the final say—and our own.

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TAGS: aferim, mihai comanoiu, Radu Jude, teodor corban, tribeca film festival


The Emperor's New Clothes

Comedian-actor Russell Brand has, in the past few years, been focusing his energies more on political activism, even going so far as to launch a web series and publish a book to further his campaign of economic revolution. The Emperor's New Clothes, his documentary collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom, suggests that he's picked up a few tactics from Michael Moore, grandstanding stunts and all. But say what you will about Moore spending the entirety of Roger & Me trying to score an interview with the CEO of General Motors, or actually landing one with Charlton Heston at the end of Bowling for Columbine, one could argue that he evinces at least a hint of interest in hearing these people try to defend themselves. When Brand pulls a similar stunt in The Emperor's New Clothes, driving around in a van with "Shop A Banker" printed on it, and trying to burst into the offices of major banks like HSBC and RBS in order to speak to the CEOs who run them, he gives no indication that he's interested in open discourse. Instead of any sense of intellectual curiosity to add depth to his agreeably impassioned anger, there's only a preaching-to-the-choir sense of foregone conclusions. Why bother asking questions when you already think you know the answers?

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TAGS: anesthesia, corey stoll, Gretchen Mol, jessica hecht, K. Todd Freeman, kristen stewart, Michael K. Williams, michael moore, michael winterbottom, mickey sumner, russell brand, Sam Waterston, the emperor's new clothes, tim blake nelson, tribeca film festival


Maggie

Henry Hobson, a former main title design director on The Walking Dead, probably understands more than most that the zombie scenario has long reached critical mass—that most zombie stories are all the same: they come, we get the fuck out. In between there's much biting and dying, but the living almost always run toward wherever, whoever, promises them another day. In Maggie, though, people stay put. The film begins with a farmer, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), picking up his daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), from a hospital, where she was taken after being bitten on the arm. Dead but not yet zombified, she rides shotgun on the way back home, picking at her wound as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. At the farm, she says goodbye to her two half-brothers, who—just in case—are carted away to an aunt's house, while Wade and Maggie's stepmother, Caroline (Joely Richardson), wait for her to turn. And wait. And wait. At least, then, in its prioritizing of the girl's drifting toward the unknown known, and in her parents' coping with its inevitability, the film reveals itself as its own band apart.

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TAGS: abigail breslin, arnold schwarzenegger, henry hobson, joely richardson, maggie, tribeca film festival


Bare

It's hard to select the most startling edit in Bare, a film that attempts to strip down the concept of desire in a manner that would likely please Stranger by the Lake director Alain Guiraudie. One obvious choice would be a bracing cut that takes the viewer from an argument between drifter Pepper (Paz de la Huerta) and her lover, Sarah (Dianna Agron), to a remote quarry where Sarah's supposed boyfriend, Haden (Chris Zylka), is using empty liquor bottles for target practice. But just as potent is an edit near the close of the final act, when Sarah, finally exhausted of her friends' petty, conformist interests, stands up quietly and leaves a baby shower without warning, exiting through the front door and emerging through another, in a different place where the blond heroine will confront another subplot. The baby-shower scene isn't so much left hanging as it is left precisely where Sarah wants it: in the past.

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TAGS: bare, chris zylka, Dianna Agron, natalia leite, paz de la huerta, tobias datum, tribeca film festival


Robert Downey Jr.

1. "The Grantland Q&A: Robert Downey Jr." The Avengers star on life inside and outside of Iron Man’s armor.

"Right, no, where you're knocking, I don't know where the knob to that door is. I know that it opens by itself, and I step into it sometimes, but it's not that I can't distinguish my personal reality from my career. There's a ... there's some constellation that is this experience, this planet ... let me put it this way: I ran into Keanu Reeves a dozen years ago. He just got back from shooting the first Matrix, and I said to him, naively, 'Hey, man, how'd that go?' He was like, 'I've been on another planet for nine months.' And I was like, 'Uh, OK, how'd the shoot go?' But once I saw it, I was like, man, I didn't know. Once I saw the movie, any question I could have asked him was answered in that answer. Mine has been more of a slow-burn version of that. It was a business and a creative thing, it was a personal thing, it was an intuitive thing. And now it's become, I don't know, I think it's like a national product."

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TAGS: alan scherstuhl, art of the real, artforum, better call saul, caravaggio, grantland, istanbul, istanbul: memories and the city, m. night shyamalan, matt siegel, maureen freely, melissa anderson, nighthawks, orhan pamuk, robert downey jr., the village voice, the visit, vince gilligan, will you dance with me


Sleeping with Other People

As in her debut feature, Bachelorette, writer-director Leslye Headland again manages to find some edgily intriguing ways to refresh a somewhat familiar rom-com setup in Sleeping with Other People. With its New York-based central male-female pair confiding in each other about their love lives and basically attempting to maintain a platonic friendship, the film sounds like a modern-day variation on When Harry Met Sally... But unlike Harry and Sally in the Rob Reiner film, the central relationship begins with sex, as Jake (Jason Sudeikis) first encounters an angry, horny Lainey (Alison Brie) in college in 2002 and ends up being her first. The next time they encounter each other, however, is roughly 12 years later—at a meeting for sex addicts. As we get to know them better, we discover that it isn't necessarily sex addiction that fuels their behavior, but a deeper series of fears and hang-ups. Refreshingly, though, the film doesn't offer any pat psychologizing in order to try to explain their neuroses. It may all have something to do with that one fateful night in college during which they hooked up, but Headland doesn't belabor the point, instead preferring to leave that possibility hovering in the background, hanging over their every fraught interaction as they attempt to carry on a friendship without succumbing to sexual desire.

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TAGS: Adam Brody, Adam Scott, alison brie, amanda peet, bachelorette, Jason Mantzoukas, Jason Sudeikis, Leslye Headland, tribeca film festival


The Wannabe

Set in Little Italy, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, and "inspired by" a true story, The Wannabe is a solid but unexceptional addition to the growing canon of gangster movies whose mobsters aren't glamorous, soulful antiheroes, but canny and unprincipled brutes. Not much is known about why the real Thomas and Rosemarie Uva chose to do something as risky and, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid as robbing mafia social clubs in Queens (the Daily News called them Bonnie and Clod). In last year's Rob the Mob, Thomas is portrayed as being angry at the mob for having beaten his father when he was late with his payments on a business loan, but The Wannabe's writer-director, Nick Sandow, shows him as motivated by a childlike obsession with the mafia in general, and John Gotti in particular. Desperate to be accepted into one of the families, this version of the man somehow convinces himself that robbing gangsters as they play cards is a good way to prove that he belongs. But then, thinking isn't exactly his strong suit.

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TAGS: Alia Shawkat, anton yelchin, aubrey plaza, frank langella, luke wilson, meadowland, michael imperioli, Nick Sandow, olivia wilde, patricia arquette, reed morano, the driftless area, tribeca film festival, Vincent Piazza, Vincenzo Amato, zachary sluser, zooey deschanel







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