The House


Far from Men

Far from Men is set against the backdrop of the blossoming Algerian War of Independence in 1954, following Daru (Viggo Mortensen), a man of few words who teaches reading to the children of goat-herding Algerian natives, though one look at him reveals that he's obviously haunted by something primal and existential. Daru's one-room school, which sits on a plateau that's in the middle of a rocky, desert Nowheresville, clearly serves as a sort of monastery for the teacher, as it's a place for him to practice a kind of theoretically under-the-radar pacifism. There's no such thing, however, as Daru is frequently bothered by the French military and, suggestively, by the guerrilla Algerian resistance. The teacher's neutrality is dangerous and seen as a threat by both sides, and this issue is further clouded because Daru, like many Algerian settlers, has explicit ties to both the French and Arab communities. These cultural ambiguities reach a potentially explosive head when the French military drops an Arab, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), off at Daru's door, ordering him to deliver the prisoner to a nearby French prison for sentencing and inevitable execution.

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TAGS: albert camus, david oelhoffen, Elmore Leonard, far from men, Reda Kateb, the guest, three-ten to yuma, tribeca film festival, viggo mortensen


Slow West

Slow West is a photogenic trifle about a Scottish teen traveling through the rugged, dangerous terrain of frontier America in 1870 looking for his runaway love and her father. It begins with a "once upon a time," which instantly gives writer-director John Maclean's western the secret air of a fairy tale. Indeed, as Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lies on his back and stares at the stars, which twinkle as he pretends to shoot them with his gun, there's a sense of him as a little prince who's left the safety of some far-off land in search of adventure, or to fulfill some fabulously preordained destiny. Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who narrates Jay's conventional story with the sort of regard that suggests he thinks it will be of value to someone in the future other than himself, meets him deep in Colorado and becomes the young man's protector against the elements and wolves who appear to them in sheep's clothing—literally so in the case of one particularly colorful bounty hunter, Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). It's a fable that makes the unexceptional appear slightly off-kilter through fussy artifice, and programmatically marches toward a bloody climax whose only true, if scarcely resplendent, surprise is its denial of a conventional happily ever after.

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TAGS: ben mendelsohn, caren pistorius, jed kurzel, john maclean, Kodi Smit-McPhee, michael fassbender, rory mccann, slow west, tribeca film festival


Anthony Doerr

1. "2015 Pulitzer Prize Winners in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music." Today, the New York Times offers short profiles on all the winners, including (below) Anthony Doerr for All the Light We Cannot See.

"Mr. Doerr's intricately plotted novel takes place in France and Germany during World War II, and centers on two young characters whose lives converge: a blind girl, Marie-Laure, who flees Paris and joins the resistance movement; and a German orphan, Werner, who attends a Hitler Youth academy. Mr. Doerr spent a decade researching and writing the novel, which was also a finalist for the National Book Award and became a major best-seller, with 1.6 million copies in circulation. 'The research was so harrowing," said Mr. Doerr, 41, who lives in Boise, Idaho. 'I thought I would never finish the book, and then I did and now a lot of people are reading it, and it's so weird.'"

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TAGS: alan sepinwall, all the light we cannot see, anthony doerr, edward snowden, health, ian cohen, italy, julian assange, jurassic world, le corbusier, margaret rhodes, oliver stone, pitchfork, pulitzer prize, television, the snowden files, wired


The Overnight

Executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, Patrick Brice's The Overnight has a lot in common with the brothers' HBO dramedy Togetherness. Both explore the existential angst of being no longer young but not quite middle-aged yet, as experienced by a small cohort of middle- and upper-middle-class white Angelenos. And both create a sometimes cringe-inducing facsimile of the unpredictability of real life by mixing comic awkwardness with genuine tenderness and vulnerability, often in the same moment.

The Overnight's insecure stay-at-home dad, Alex (Adam Scott), and savvy, nurturing working mom, Emily (Taylor Schilling), are feeling their way through their mid 30s. They may not be quite aware that their capacity for spontaneous joy and their sexual spark are slowly suffocating under the routines of a years-old marriage and the responsibilities of parenthood, but they feel something missing, Alex in particular fretting about the difficulty of making friends in a new place (they just moved to Los Angeles). Then the quirky but irresistible Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, whose air of impish innocence makes the character seem a little dangerous, but ultimately trustworthy) spots them in a park where their children and his are playing and invites them to dinner. His invitation feels magical, an answer to the couple's unspoken prayer. And, like a wish granted by a genie, it opens the door to a new and better world.

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TAGS: Adam Scott, Ben Palmer, jason schwartzman, jay duplass, judith godrèche, Lake Bell, man up, mark duplass, patrick brice, simon pegg, Taylor Schilling, the overnight, tribeca film festival


Backtrack

Backtrack might have been more accurately titled Piggyback, given its allegiances to such films about ghosts and the agony of "letting go" of trauma as Don't Look Now, The Sixth Sense, and The Others. Yet there's no melancholy to its understanding of grief, no intellectual symbiosis between its editing and performances, and no grace or surprise to its many narrative sleights of hand. It's also no spoiler to acknowledge the films that writer-director Michael Petroni tips his hat to, as it's revealed very early on that Sydney psychologist Peter Bower (Adrien Brody), still grieving from the death of his daughter a year ago, doesn't meet with actual patients, but with ghosts from his past. With increasing and inexplicable rage, these specters drop for him a trail of breadcrumbs that takes him back to his childhood home, in a town whose name is too unbelievably on point to spoil here. Needless to say, the name tips the film's hand: Nothing here is quite as it seems.

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TAGS: adrien brody, backtrack, Michael Petroni, Robin McLeavy, tribeca film festival


Mad Men

If there was something somewhat heartening about Don (Jon Hamm) not ending up with Diana, whose obsession and regret over her own past seems poised to haunt her to her final days, "The Forecast" makes it perfectly clear that the next thing isn't always easy to pinpoint. In fact, the episode hinges on a series of actions and events that, depending on perspective, could be seen as backsliding or moving on. This, of course, begins with Joan's (Christina Hendricks) meeting with Richard (Bruce Greenwood), an incredibly handsome, well-off older gentlemen who initially wants her to abandon everything and run off to Europe with him. His offer suggests a total abandonment of the past, including her child, but Joan, unlike so many of her co-workers, has a strong idea of what she wants out of life outside of her professional goals. Her son is a necessity, and part of the invigorating dramatic pull of "The Forecast" is watching Joan curtly reminding Richard that he is not.

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TAGS: bruce greenwood, christina hendricks, january jones, jon hamm, jonathan igla, kevin rahm, kierman shipka, mad men, marten holden weiner, matthew weiner, recap, the forecast, trevor einhorn


Jon Stewart

1. "Jon Stewart: Why I Quit The Daily Show." Stewart's decision to retire as host of the satirical news show after 16 years has left liberal America in mourning. So why is he leaving just before an election—and what will happen when he steps out from behind the desk?

"When I catch up with him again, I ask if he knew he'd be leaving when we had that conversation. 'No, no—but some of it had been in the back of my head for quite some time. But you don't want to make any kind of decision when you're in the crucible of the process, just like you don't decide whether you're going to continue to run marathons in mile 24,' he says. He switches to a chewy exaggeration of his native Noo Joi-zy accent, deflating his seriousness with a comedy voice. 'You wait until you're done, you have a nice cup o' water, you put the blanket on, you sit and then you decide.' I had assumed that, as well as the metaphorical cup o' water, he had decided to quit because he had so much fun making Rosewater. But Stewart says not. 'Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, 'Are there other ways to skin this cat?' And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.'"

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TAGS: alex pappademas, drake, j. hoberman, james wolcott, john marshall, jon stewart, louie, madonna, orson welles, roar, samantha allen, the comedians, the daily show, the lady from shanghai


The Wolfpack

There's a moment in Crystal Moselle's The Wolfpack where a young man, Mukunda Angulo, says that memory is a curse. Mukunda and his siblings have spent the better part of their lives all but forcibly confined to an apartment in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and as he's interviewed by Moselle, it's clear that he's speaking about his own memories of growing up with Oscar, his paranoid, controlling, Peruvian-born father, who insisted the family avoid interacting with society whenever possible. To alleviate much of what he's witnessed in the cramped quarters of his home, the Angulo brothers became obsessed with movies, and they spend a lot of their time ingeniously remaking them with lo-fi equipment. In relaying the actions that lead to the Angulo siblings, along with their mother, to increasingly venture outside, Moselle conveys a slight semblance of the power of film to augment, reshape, and occasionally rewrite memory, and the first-time filmmaker's meandering technique and style mirrors the excitement and sense of discovery that highlight Mukunda's first directorial attempts.

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TAGS: crystal moselle, mukunda angulo, the wolfpack, tribeca film festival


Game of Thrones

It's fitting that the titular House of Black and White is home to No One, for if there's anything true of Westeros, it's that nothing is ever black and white. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), for example, blames the Lannisters for her beloved husband's death, and from her viewpoint, it would be just to mail parts of an innocent young girl, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), back to her mother, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Back in King's Landing, looking at the threatening statue of a snake that's been mailed to her, Cersei acts like the victim; she can't fathom why Ellaria might seek revenge, even as she herself swears to burn Dorne to the ground should anything happen to her daughter. Everybody is the hero of their own narrative; those who are mere bystanders, like the current prince of Dorne, Ellaria's brother-in-law, Doran (Alexander Siddig), are warned that their inactions will swiftly lead to their own deposal.

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TAGS: aidan gillen, Alexander Siddig, Anton Lesser, dean-charles chapman, dominic carter, emilia clarke, game of thrones, gwendolin, ian gelder, Indira Varma, jacob anderson, jerome flynn, joel fry, kit harington, lena headey, maisie williams, michiel huisman, nell tiger free, nikolaj coster-waldau, owen teale, peter Vaughan, recap, sophie turner, the house of black and white


Virgin Mountain

The latest film from Icelandic director Dagur Kári concerns an obese, socially awkward man who's still a virgin at age 43, and who finds himself falling for a woman he meets at a line-dancing class. Though Virgin Mountain is the English title, its Icelandic title, Fusí, seems more fitting. Instead of being a broad yuks-with-heart sex romp in the manner of Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Kári's film is more a character study of Fusí (Gunnar Jónsson), a particular specimen of arrested development who still lives with his mother; obsesses, among other things, on a giant scale model of the World War II Battle of El Alamein; and works the same dead-end airport job, often enduring the humiliating taunts of his co-workers in the process.

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TAGS: alba rohrwacher, dagur kári, flonja kodheli, gunnar jónsson, ilmur kristjánsdóttir, laura bispuri, sworn virgin, tribeca film festival, virgin mountain







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