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Berlinale 2015 The Club

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Berlinale 2015: The Club
Berlinale 2015: The Club

If Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s latest feature, The Club, is any indication, the relatively straightforward nature of his last film, No, was only temporary. The gleeful perversity of his previous two features, 2008’s Tony Manero and 2010’s Post Mortem, is back in his new film, and so is a welcome maturity to his misanthropy that lends an unexpected moral weight to the coal-black comedy.

SXSW 2013: Devendra Banhart, Jim James, & More

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SXSW 2013: Devendra Banhart, Jim James, & More

Nonesuch Records

SXSW 2013: Devendra Banhart, Jim James, & More

Two highlights from day two of the music portion of South by Southwest were Devendra Banhart playing an intimate indoor show at the KCRW Showcase and Jim James whipping a sardine-packed crowd at Hype Hotel into a midnight frenzy. Banhart, whose Mala dropped on Tuesday, forewent the album’s instrumental layers and synth beats in favor of a stripped-down one-man approach. Perched atop a stool with nothing but an electric guitar, he interspersed songs from the new album with old favorites such as “The Body Breaks.” About 20 seconds into the song, Banhart stopped playing, smiled sheepishly, and admitted, “Jesus, okay…I don’t remember how to play this!” With typical aplomb, he pointed out, “Hey, this is good, you guys don’t see this too often,” and then re-launched the song. Banhart’s stage presence can come off precious, but his frequent non-sequiturs—wishing the audience a “happy Halloween,” musing about Audrey Hepburn’s emotive abilities—landed with such winsome glee that they somehow never felt contrived. Banhart dropped the occasional note during his intricate solos, but these quirks only add to the DIY, rough-hewn vibe that made him famous in the first place.

True/False Film Fest 2013: Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington and Twenty Feet from Stardom

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True/False Film Fest 2013: <em>Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington</em> and <em>Twenty Feet from Stardom</em>
True/False Film Fest 2013: <em>Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington</em> and <em>Twenty Feet from Stardom</em>

True/False’s 10th year was undoubtedly its best run yet, and as the last song played at its closing concert, by Buskers Last Stand, there was a feeling of elation from a weekend having exceeded expectations. There were the name-dropping perks of up-and-coming Chicago duo MNDR DJing the annual @ction Party; Ushio, the star of Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, demonstrating one of his punch paintings on a billboard-sized canvas; Q&As with big-names such as Daniel Dreifuss, the producer of Oscar-nominated No. But there were the unexpected and discreet perks, too, like seeing the twin brothers that comprise the band Flux Bikes use their bikes as instruments to make complex beat symphonies; finding an enormous fort filled with balloons hiding in a back room at a festival party on Saturday; being entertained by volunteers cracking jokes over megaphones while waiting in a theater line. It’s the quirky, charming touches that distinguish True/False from most film festivals, transforming the experience into more than just a series of events; they turn it into a pop-up community that’s utterly engulfing for a handful of days each year.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Foreign Language

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

Now that good taste dictates that we can’t play What Would Ernest Borgnine Vote For? during another particularly dreary season of Oscar forecasting, we’re forced to remove the plastic from our copy of What Would Ed Asner Vote for When He Isn’t Busy Writing Letters About Torture in Zero Dark Thirty? Except for the later game’s slightly more pronounced liberal bias, the premise remains the same: to gauge the chances of whippersnapper artistic visions trying to withstand the force of films that pander with almost chilling efficacy to the interests of AMPAS, whose average age we’re told is now a whopping 57. Of course, if there’s any category where we probably don’t need to bust out the Social Security-themed Chance cards and silver-minted tokens of Lou Grant and Carl Fredricksen feeding pigeons to determine the outcome, it’s probably this one.

New York Film Festival 2012: No

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>No</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>No</em>

Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero and Post Mortem) gives us another take on his country’s dark dance with military dictatorship in No, an often lighthearted, sometimes inspirational, but ultimately unsettling feature. The film covers an extraordinary time in 1988 during which the Pinochet regime was shamed by international pressure into holding an election to produce a show of legitimacy. For 27 days leading up to the election, the state-controlled TV station aired 15 minutes a day of free programming for the government and 15 minutes against it. After 15 years of silencing the opposition with torture, death, or sheer terror, the junta was confident that their supporters, the Yes party, would turn out in allegiance, and that their opposition, the No party, would stay home, fearful of retaliation or (rightly) convinced that the vote would be fixed. But they didn’t account for the brave and canny image-shapers, straight out of the advertising world, who would steal the election back from the junta.