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Cannes Film Festival 2017 Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories

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Cannes Film Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

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Cannes Film Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Centered around a bitter patriarch and his three alienated children, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) feels lived-in despite its glaringly mannered dialogue and charmingly eccentric characterizations. After all, there aren’t that many people like bitter also-ran sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman), clingy musician turned stay-at-home father Danny (Adam Sandler), depressed control freak Benjamin (Ben Stiller), and Danny and Benjamin’s pushy but kind step-sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel).

The Meyerowitzes are rich oddballs: Danny somehow can afford to not work for long stretches of time; Harold tellingly quibbles about the merits of his colleagues’ work right before he beams proudly about bumping into a celebrity (Sigourney Weaver!); and Harold’s fourth wife (Emma Thompson) secretively combats alcoholism while binging on expensive hummus, and serving rarefied dishes like shark and pigeon. But while these individuals may not talk like the people you know, they obsess, kvetch, and ache in ways that make it seem as if you’ve known them for years.

Empathy for a Genius Karina Longworth’s Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor

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Empathy for a Genius: Karina Longworth’s Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor
Empathy for a Genius: Karina Longworth’s Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor

I approached film critic Karina Longworth’s recent book, Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, with a special mixture of anticipation and dread, as the film and theater icon has the distinction of being my first favorite actor. I caught his performances in Dog Day Afternoon and Scarface for the first time on the same random fateful summer night sometime in the third grade, and was subsequently awakened to the notion of acting as a unique and personal art, rather than merely a method of supporting a director’s intentions—whose art form I had discovered the year before. Throughout the years, Pacino has remained one of my favorite actors, and I’ve found that he’s often been misunderstood and underrated by critics eager to plug him into a conveniently tidy rise-and-fall narrative that doesn’t really fit.

Venice Film Festival 2012: The Master

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Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Master</em>
Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Master</em>

Power, ambition, sex, religion, daddy issues—themes that have obsessed Paul Thomas Anderson throughout his patchy but compelling career. You’ll find them all here and more in The Master, a feverish snapshot of America at the dawn of the ’50s, war fresh in its mind. Anderson’s dazzling feature is also, notoriously, a thinly veiled portrait of the birth of Z-grade science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard’s celebrity-endorsed religion, though less barbed than you might expect.

Credit for this nuanced approach should go to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who imbues title character Lancaster Dodd with a large dollop of avuncular charm. One gets the impression that “The Cause,” Dodd’s teachings that claim to have the potential to cure cancer and bring about world peace, is simply an outlandish bit of mischief that’s gotten out of hand, a petty confidence racket that requires increasingly flamboyant lies as his followers multiply.

The film opens like a playful Beau Travail. WWII is nearing its end and on a golden South Pacific beach members of the U.S. Navy lark in the blue surf like they’re in an Old Spice commercial. One of these sailors, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, gaunt, loose-limbed, in Two Lovers form), stands out from the wholesome crowd. Freddie is pure id, a volatile ball of bodily functions and uncontrollable urges. After entertaining his buddies by miming a sex act with an anatomically correct female sand sculpture, he wades knee-deep into the drink to jerk off. This is as close to contentment as we’ll see Freddie for the rest of the film.

The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

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The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis
The Indelicate Delinquent in Manic Winter: An Evening with Jerry Lewis

On the occasion of his 86th birthday last Friday night, Jerry Lewis was in his element: water. He was drooling it onto his feet, wrapping his lips around the rim of a glass, and drinking from a pitcher. Abetted by his on-stage interviewer, comedian and TV cop Richard Belzer, the legendary nightclub performer, jack-of-all-film-trades, and philanthropic veteran of the Muscular Dystrophy Association met the expectations of fans who packed 92nd Street Y’s Kaufmann Auditorium on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by cutting loose with the brand of shameless clowning that has kept him rich and famous since the Truman Administration. Casually crossing his legs and sending a shoe flying into the first row, musically cutting off a Belzer follow-up question with “Was I throoooough?”, and fixing the perpetrator of a solitary laugh with a cartoonish, sneering turn of the head that dates back to his white-hot dual act with Dean Martin, Lewis was primed to give his audience a good time, and what was billed as a tribute by the fraternal comedians’ group The Friars Club morphed into a two-hour reciprocal love-in between childlike idol and uncritical idolators. “I’m nine, and I’ve always been nine,” Lewis self-diagnosed during a breather from his antic agenda. “The beauty of nine is that it’s not complicated.”

Poster Lab: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Poster Lab: <em>What to Expect When You’re Expecting</em>
Poster Lab: <em>What to Expect When You’re Expecting</em>

So, apparently David Lynch has added film promotion to his post-Inland Empire activities. How else to explain the certifiable smiling faces and wacko-subversive quotes in the character posters above? The marketing campaign for What to Expect When You’re Expecting reads like The Stepford Wives by way of Twin Peaks—soulless, soon-to-be mommy-bots with naughty, rattle-the-picket-fence speech bubbles. It’s a wonder there isn’t a severed ear resting on Elizabeth Banks’s sofa. Based on a self-help book, a la He’s Just Not That Into You, What to Expect is a yet another indicator of just how desperate Hollywood is to peddle known brands, even if nobody has a clue about how to sell them. Barring the Lynch theory, it’s pretty obvious what happened here: a photo crew got busy with the backdrops, basketballs, and airbrushing, while a “hip and young” writing team started digging through their Someecards. Put ’em together and whaddaya got? Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bipolar posters.