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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Back to School: Laurent Cantet's "The Class"

    Realism is the mode du jour of international art cinema, so it's fitting that the New York Film Festival opens with Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or winner, "The Class," an exercise in naturalist mise-en-scene, improvisatory nonprofessional acting, and immediate handheld cinematography. These tropes should by now be familiar to audiences attending a festival that will also feature works by likeminded filmmakers such as Jia Zhangke and Kelly Reichardt (and hosted Hou Hsaio-hsien's and Lee Chang-dong's similar films last year). But Cantet's film impresses if even for the feat of credibly portraying the atmosphere of a classroom full of fourteen-year...

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    REVIEW | The Surge: Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones"

    Maybe sometime in the next decade, the Iraq War will get its "Platoon" or its "Full Metal Jacket," but for now, we'll have to keep waiting for a memorably incisive, dramatically successful cinematic treatment -- at least, from a fiction film (documentaries are, happily, another story). Neil Burger's...

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    REVIEW | Sports Wear: Ryan Little's "Forever Strong"

    Ryan Little's "Forever Strong" is a friendly, heaping helping of rugby porn -- in senses both erotic and non. Seemingly cast top to bottom with holdovers from "Flaunt" photo-spreads and David DeCoteau flicks (in fact, fans of DeCoteau's boxer-brief brand of cheapo-homo horror will recognize the film...

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    REVIEW | Shock Defect: Clark Gregg's "Choke"

    Let's say the least you expect of art is that it shows signs of a coherent designing intelligence, and the least you expect of entertainment is that it doesn't make you wish you were looking at something else. Now let's move on to "Choke," which is neither, adapted from a Chuck Palahniuk novel by ac...

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    REVIEW | The New World: Wayne Wang's "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers"

    Since virtually inventing Asian-American cinema in 1982 with his film "Chan Is Missing," Wayne Wang has built a curiously Frankensteinian body of work, mixing indie and commercial productions and spanning subjects as diverse as a lazy Brooklyn afternoon and the last days of pre-handover Hong Kong. T...

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    REVIEW | Unanswerable Questions: Koji Masutani's "Virtual JFK"

    An inevitable byproduct of the study of history is the "What if?" game, the second-guessing of key events and decisions in light of the disasters that followed. One of the great American "What if?"s of the twentieth century is of course born from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the cutting short of the promise of Camelot and all the youthful hope it embodied. Of course, Kennedy came to embody much of that youthful hope once he was immortalized by untimely death, and the romanticization of his presidency by the public in the last four decades has often had less to do with what he actually did in office than what he symbolizes as a lastin...

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    REVIEW | Don't Worry, Be Angry: Stuart Townsend's "Battle in Seattle"

    A mere couple of weeks after a polarizing Republican National Convention, it will be difficult for some of us to criticize a film like "Battle in Seattle." For many, Stuart Townsend's ensemble fictionalization of the 1999 protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle may strike a welcome note, harkening back to a triumphant, nonviolent-turned-violent demonstration which caused -- directly or indirectly -- a collapse in trade negotiations that even some participants characterized as imbalanced. Townsend's film portrays this moment as a victory for the antiglobalization movement (and the Left, broadly defined), an example of how pu...

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    TORONTO '08 CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK | "Paris," "Agnes," Rock Stars and "Religulous"; TIFF Docs Go Personal

    If a single lesson emerges from this year's crop of documentaries at the Toronto International Film Festival, it might be this: Who needs Paris Hilton when you have Agnes Varda? Both the overexposed starlet and the French New Wave legend showed up in Canada this week to watch themselves on the big s...

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    REVIEW | Everything Is Privates: Alan Ball's "Towelhead"

    Not far into his feature directorial debut, "Towelhead," Alan Ball offers us the sight of a thirteen-year-old girl having her first period in a bathroom stall; this is shot from a low angle, with the camera positioned near the floor, peering up through the girl's blood-stained panties as she stares ...

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    REVIEW | Troubling the Water: Irena Salina's "Flow"

    To the long and ever growing list of pressing environmental concerns we can add the global water crisis. Despite its indispensability for human survival, water hasn't gained traction as a political issue (at least not in America), and so filmmaker Irena Salina interjects "Flow" into the conversation as a corrective; she wants her film to do for the world water crisis what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for climate change. While the facts revealed in the documentary, as conveyed in interviews with numerous activists and scientists, are not exactly stunning revelations -- or maybe at this point I'm just unsurprised by tales of apathetic governmen...

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