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by Eric Kohn
October 1, 2012 10:52 AM
2 Comments
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19 Reviews (And Counting) From the New York Film Festival

"Hyde Park on Hudson"

Bill Murray is a man of many talents who has lately struggled to find the right outlet for them. The latest example, "Hyde Park on Hudson," finds Murray in a tame, mannered costume drama delivering his best FDR impression. The actor's pathos and deadpan skills are buried in the material, which also suffers from a continuous lack of inspiration. It's high-minded entertainment with low ambition. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"The Last Time I Saw Macao"

A provocative cinematic poem in the tradition of the late Chris Marker, "The Last Time I Saw Macao" valiantly attempts to dissect an entire metropolitan history. Perhaps because it aims so big, not every fragment connects, but Portuguese co-directors Joao Pedro Rodrigues and Joao Rui Guerra da Mata unload an intriguing collection of attitudes, themes and memories based around a largely effective combination of nostalgia and colonialist regret. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Leviathan"

There are moments in "Leviathan" so breathtaking that it's easy to forget they're also familiar. Documentarians Vérena Paravel and Lucien Castain-Taylor follow a pair of fishing vessels off the coast of Massachusetts from nearly every imaginable angle as well as a few impossible ones: Captured on small digital cameras fixed to fishermen helmets, tossed beneath the waves and strewn across the deck among the dead-eyed haul, the barrage of visuals populating "Leviathan" contain a routinely dissociative effect. The dialogue is sparse and distant, drowned out by hulking machinery, wind and water. The movie could take place on another planet; instead, it peers at this one from a jarring and entirely fresh point of view. Read more hereCriticwire grade: A

"Life of Pi"

Yann Martel's bestselling 2001 novel "Life of Pi" followed the young Indian survivor of a shipwreck stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger -- the kind of high concept scenario both easy to comprehend and difficult to envision in movie terms. Much of the story, narrated by its spiritually minded protagonist, contains prolonged philosophical discussions and remains tethered to an extremely minimalist setting. That Ang Lee has managed to turn the limitations of his source material into his adaptation's greatest strength makes "Life of Pi" a significant achievement for the filmmaker in spite of blatant problems with structure, dialogue and other surface issues. "Life of Pi" succeeds in its most audacious moments and struggles whenever it returns to familiar ground. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Like Someone in Love"

There's a lot of driving and talking in "Like Someone in Love," Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's latest production made outside of his native country, but beyond that is anyone's guess. Following last year's Tuscany-set "Certified Copy," the new movie finds the director in the vastly different turf of Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast. For Kiarostami buffs, that imbues the material with a disorienting quality, but it still manages to settle into a familiar Kiarostami enigma. Even far away from home, Kiarostami is still Kiarostami. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"No"

With his last two features, "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem," Chilean director Pablo Larraín quickly established himself as the preeminent chronicler of his country's lingering demons from its years of oppression under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. For his third and most accomplished work, "No," Larraín has traded the allegorical track for the real thing, delivering a lively, mesmerizing drama about a national call to action during the 1988 referendum on Pinochet's presidency. With a full-bodied turn by Gael Garcia Bernal as its anchor, "No" broadens Larraín's range by replicating historical events in engrossing detail.  Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"The Paperboy"

Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" is a rare case of serious commitment to outright silliness. The director's follow-up to "Precious" takes the mold of an investigative period piece set amid racial tensions in late-'60s Florida, but Daniels fries the dramatic content with a blazingly absurd grindhouse style as extreme as the humidity bearing down on his characters. It's possible to enjoy aspects of "The Paperboy" if you assume a certain self-awareness behind the campier bits, but even then, the movie drowns in an overwhelming barrage of excess. Read more here. Criticwire grade: D+

"Passion"

Since the earliest stages of Brian De Palma's career, his thrillers have constantly walked a line between self-parody and earnest pastiche. "Passion," a reworking of the late Alain Corneau's final film "Love Crimes," reassuringly falls into this camp, signaling a return to form for the director despite its many flaws. Much more than a simple revamp of existing material, "Passion" is a veritable De Palma remix, at once a classy suspense movie and an unquestionably silly affair. Regardless of its glaring flaws, "Passion" is reassuringly old school. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Tabu"

Miguel Gomes ("Our Beloved Month of August") has made a decisively cinematic work, tapping into classic film traditions while subverting them with consistent narrative invention. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"

The 90-year-old Alain Resnais leaves plenty of room for his dynamic ensemble cast to act circles around the material while Resnais directs circles around them. It's little more than a stylistically intriguing exercise, but Resnais works out better than most. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

2 Comments

  • davey | October 1, 2012 1:12 PMReply

    It's absolutely ridiculous that Life of Pi and Passion get the same grade. Life of Pi is so much better than Passion, and to put them in the same category is insane.

  • Eric | October 1, 2012 1:42 PM

    The grades are not meant to be viewed in objective terms but rather in relation to the movies in question. A "B" grade for PI is hardly the same thing as a "B" grade for PASSION. Of course, any grading scale is bound to invite this kind of gripe, but our hope is that the grades are always seen within the context of the reviews.