The House


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


True Story

1. "True Story, The Jinx and Serving Up Truth With the Imagination." A.O. Scott about that pervasive free-floating anxiety about stories that claim to be true, and when distortion becomes art.

"What is most interesting to me about Ms. [Janet] Malcolm's defense of Mr. [Joseph] Mitchell is that she recasts what is commonly understood as an ethical boundary as an aesthetic distinction. Mr. Mitchell may have regarded himself as a journalist rather than a novelist—in any case The New Yorker classified his work as fact rather than fiction—but in Ms. Malcolm's view his talent was artistic, and therefore beyond the kind of criticism that insists on literal accuracy. To put it another way: His genius resided in the brazenness and extremity of his violation of the rules of journalism. He was, as the review's headline claims, 'The master writer of the city' because he was also, to some degree, a master criminal."

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TAGS: a.o. scott, eric hynes, hillary clinton, it follows, janet malcolm, Joseph Mitchell, leslie jamison, miami vice, michael mann, morocco, reverse shot, richard brody, slate, the jinx, the new york times, tom shone, true story, what's up doc


The Americans

On March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. His remarks ranged widely, touching on the Book of Isaiah and The Screwtape Letters, Alexis de Tocqueville and the Declaration of Independence, but his central subject, as he described it, was the knowledge "that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin." Though it was his invocation of the Soviet Union's "evil empire" that made waves, as we see in a nightly news segment at the end of tonight's episode of The Americans, it's Reagan's decision to cast Cold War politics in such stark terms, both secular and religious, that underlines the moral compromises on which the series has focused throughout its brilliant third season. In "March 8, 1983," 48 minutes that come as near to perfection as television can, it turns out that the phenomenology of evil and the doctrine of sin are inadequate hermeneutics for the dark night of the soul.

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TAGS: aleksandra myrna, annet mahendru, costa ronin, cotter smith, frank langella, Holly Taylor, Keri Russell, Luke Robertson, march 8 1983, Matthew Rhys, Michael Aronov, Noah Emmerich, rahul khanna, recap, richard thomas, svetlana efremova, the americans


Dirty Weekend

Compared to the misanthropic roundelays that made his reputation back in the 1990s and early aughts, Dirty Weekend, the latest film from Neil LaBute, finds this generally prickly provocateur in a relatively lighthearted mood. Certainly, neither of the two main characters, Les (Matthew Broderick) and Natalie (Alice Eve), do anything extravagantly nasty to each other in the way Aaron Eckhart's vengefully misogynist business executive in In the Company of Men or Rachel Weisz's exploitive artist in The Shape of Things behave toward ostensible friends and love interests. Which isn't to say this is exactly a departure for LaBute. As ever, he's fascinated with the ways people lie to each other and to themselves, and this time he trains his eye on a prudish man who, we gradually discover, is on a mission to discover what exactly happened one drunken night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a business trip months ago.

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TAGS: Alice Eve, dirty weekend, matthew broderick, neil labute, tribeca film festival


Toto and His Sisters

The mother of the three children at the center of Alexandre Nanău's Toto and His Sisters is in jail for dealing drugs, and early in the documentary, she's read a list of her offenses by a parole board and quickly denied her freedom. The scene is primarily expositional, explaining how the titular siblings have ended up alone in a Bucharest slum, surrounded by constantly swarming heroin addicts, many of whom are the children's relatives. The film details this bleak existence largely through nine-year-old Toto and 15-year-old Andreea, who barely survive it, and their older sister, Ana, who barely functions as a not-exactly-recovering addict. The setup sounds like the worst kind of misery porn, fit more for an international edition of Intervention than a feature film, and though the director does intermittently indulge in a cheap, heavy-handed sort of sentimentalism, he's also fashioned a slyly subversive document of the wrongheadedness of anti-drug legislation, treatment, and governmental responsibility.

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TAGS: alexandre nanău, giovanni boccaccio, paolo taviani, the decameron, toto and his sisters, tribeca film festival, vittorio taviani, wondrous boccaccio


Los Ausentes

Slow, deliberate camera movement has been a fashionable trait in international art cinema for decades, but in the case of Nicolás Pereda's Los Ausentes, the household descriptors won't do. Here, the camera seems to be manned by a slug spreading its oily emissions along the surfaces of an open-air cabin somewhere in coastal Mexico. In many instances, it's unclear if space has been reoriented at all, until suddenly something juts into the foreground after five minutes and it becomes apparent that the camera has been steadily backtracking. Such is the deal in the opening shot, when a still life of a chewing donkey recedes into space to reveal the film's central character silhouetted at a table on the opposite side of a window. For viewers of a certain formalist persuasion, there's great pleasure to this simple technique, a kind of eerie gravitational slide that at least partially fills a hole left by the departure of Béla Tarr from world cinema, but immaculately sluggish side-to-side and front-to-back movement does only so much for a movie. If there's a foundational flaw to the vaporous Los Ausentes, it's that Pereda has put too much stock in the ghostly sensations invoked by his technique at the expense of developing much else.

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TAGS: art of the real, ben russell, eduard fernández, gabino rodríguez, greetings to the ancestors, los ausentes, nicolás pereda


Good Kill

In Good Kill, filmmaker Andrew Niccol seizes on an unnerving and ever-relevant subject. It's one thing to read of U.S. drone strikes daily in the papers and quite another to watch even simulated images of American pilots cramped in bunkers bombing Afghanistan, via consoles that resemble video games in aesthetic as well as mode of functioning. Real people are killed as casually as pixels in an Xbox game, and that distancing, yet another manifestation of the social media-enabled detachment that characterizes the amorality of modern life, arrives with an obvious, staggering price tag attached. With great ease comes little responsibility or accountability. If bombing 30 people from 10,000 feet above is a risk-free endeavor for the bombers, then it matters less to them, living half a world's away, whether or not those people pose an authentic threat to their domain.

Logically, Niccol has fashioned from this subject matter a chamber drama that reflects the tight confines of the drone pilot's trailer. Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a major in the U.S. Air Force who's flown six tours in the War on Terror and is now uneasily resigning himself to a job at a console in Las Vegas. Despite the safety of his new occupation, and his newfound proximity to his wife, Molly (January Jones), and children, Thomas is beginning to exhibit signs of PTSD, most explicitly in his drinking, aloofness, and inability to sleep. The guilt spurred from the physical ease of the assignment is wearing Thomas down, as he misses the risk of actual flight, which blurs the political uncertainties of his part in the war through the sheer visceral fight-or-flight sensations of battle. In physical warfare, Thomas is extending his opponents the etiquette of endangering his own life; now, he can't live with what he deems to be the cowardice of long-distance warfare.

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TAGS: Andrew Niccol, bruce greenwood, ethan hawke, good kill, january jones, tribeca film festival, zoë kravitz


The Cut

The campaign of conscripted labor, systematic rape and murder, death marches, and displacement waged by Turkey against its Armenian citizens at the start of WWI, which resulted in perhaps as many as a million deaths, is marking its 100th anniversary this week. Yet it remains an extremely tender topic for Armenians, not least because the Turkish government has refused to acknowledge the extent of the calamity, sometimes even prosecuting and jailing Turkish citizens for citing the killings or calling them genocide. As a result, The Cut lived up to its title for me, creating two sets of strong, sometimes dueling reactions. The Armenian in me felt grateful to director Fatih Akın, an ethnic Turk who grew up in Germany, and his co-writer, Mardik Martin (Raging Bull), an Armenian-American, for taking on this charged topic and giving these gruesome facts a rare cinematic airing. But the film lover in me sometimes wished that The Cut, which often has the self-consciously art-directed, undead feel of a Natural History Museum diorama, were less encyclopedic and more irreverent, with more of the messy misbehavior and convincingly complicated characters that give Akin's best films, Head On and Edge of Heaven, a jittery sense of life.

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TAGS: america america, applesauce, arsinée khanjian, elia kazan, fatih akın, jennifer prediger, Kevork Malikyan, Mardik Martin, Max Casella, onur turkel, simon abkarian, summer of blood, tahar rahim, the cut, tribeca film festival, trieste kelly dunn







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