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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Match Point: Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo's "Arranged"

    "Arranged," the film itself and the story behind its conception, makes for a feel-good holiday story. Inspired by the experiences of Yuta Silverman, "Arranged" was written by Stefan Schaefer after he met with the young Orthodox Jewish woman, who had no previous connections to the New York film world, and decided the tale of her experiences finding a husband through traditional matchmaking was one worth telling. Co-directed by Schaefer and partner Diane Crespo, the final film evidences intimate knowledge of its subject, and even if it waters down that knowledge with pat nods to mainstream fare, it still maintains genuine integrity as a story o...

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    REVIEW | Frequent Flyer: Marc Forster's "The Kite Runner"

    Right off the bat, there are two telltale signs in the Hollywood adaptation of "The Kite Runner" that portend the safe, diluted entertainment about to unfold. Perhaps nervous that a prestige drama mostly told in the Afghani language of Dari, and headlined by a cast of unknown middle-Eastern actors, might not sell to the multiplexes, the producers have inserted a fancy, interminable credit sequence, backed by Alberto Iglesias's overly insistent, lute-heavy score, and adorned with some faux-Persian, animated curlicues. Then it's straight to the English-language San Francisco prologue, flatly filmed to look like any anonymous American studio pro...

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    REVIEW | Grace Notes: Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit"

    Though it's both a predictable culture-clash comedy and a gentle plea for people of different political backgrounds to "just get along," "The Band's Visit" nevertheless manages to use its central contrivances and inevitable cliches to its favor, and becomes something ethereal and winning. This debut from Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, in which the soft-spoken members of an Egyptian brass band (the stodgy Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, to be precise) find themselves stranded in a small Israeli town on the way to a gig, parlays its initial good-natured dullness into surprisingly robust drama. Kolirin's schematics, both in its narrativ...

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    REVIEW | Southern Discomfort: Paul Schrader's "The Walker"

    Paul Schrader's fascination with life's seamier underside continues in "The Walker," whose titular character, Carter Page III is something of a latter-day incarnation of Richard Gere's American gigolo. He escorts bored, rich wives around town but, this time, he's effectively neutered: "Car" is gay (though aside from a few chaste forehead pecks and a single kiss shared with his supposedly hot-for-him boyfriend, you wouldn't know it), and trades on his Wildean (he wishes) wit rather than orgasms, a Washington D.C.-set Will for any Grace to hire. Schrader's final entry into the so-called "night worker" or "lonely man" saga, loosely beginning wi...

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    REVIEW | Attitude Adjustment: Jason Reitman's "Juno"

    The hype machine is chugging along at full speed for "Juno," and it's amazing what a little festival attention can do. A well-timed Telluride premiere, to an already almost legendarily appreciative audience, was soon followed by Toronto and Austin unveilings, all of which led award pundits and Enter...

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    REVIEW | The Kid Is Alright: Jennifer Venditti's "Billy the Kid"

    Like its protagonist, Jennifer Venditti's acclaimed documentary "Billy the Kid" is both pretty hard to dislike and difficult to parse. It's already scooped up awards at Edinburgh, Los Angeles, and South by Southwest film festivals, and it's easy to see why: this compelling, ingratiating portrait of some days in the life of a charming and troubled fifteen-year-old New Englander, with its canny intimacy and sharp editing, manages to be up-close-and-personal as well as safely discreet. Venditti, following around the not-quite-outcast teenager Billy verite-style, is inoffensive in her intrusion, yet also manages to make the boy a compelling scree...

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    REVIEW | Room with a View: Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

    Like his previous films, "Basquiat" and "Before Night Falls," Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" attempts to elevate the middle-brow biopic to the status of high-brow art cinema. Schnabel, an artist and sometimes filmmaker, has carved out a niche for himself crafting visually arre...

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    REVIEW | Stuck Figures: Jessica Yu's "Protagonist"

    When she was commissioned to make a documentary about Euripedes (a tall order, indeed), filmmaker Jessica Yu instead chose to see if she could apply the classical Greek playwright's dramatic structuring principles to present-day living. Rather than rehash what made the tragedian's works great or set them apart from those of Aeschylus or Sophocles, or probe his dramatic intentions through a flat biography format or literal stagings of his plays, Yu decided to make Euripedes somewhat tangential, a unifying force rather than the center of attention. She then spent a long time trying to find four individuals who would reveal for the camera, in so...

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    REVIEW | "Starting Out in the Evening" Offers Complex, Brainy Take on Battle of Wits Between Young a

    EDITORS NOTE: This review was originally published during the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.]

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    REVIEW | An American Tale: Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There"

    In the next month, every film critic with a byline or blog will recap the past year in movies and pick ten films as 2007's finest. More likely than not, these lists will serve as springboards for an endless series of harangues on the declining quality of cinema. (Do we really need to be reminded that "Killer of Sheep" -- a movie made 30 years ago -- was the best film released this year? So what? Setting that masterpiece aside, I've seen at least twelve new films in 2007 I'd classify as great.) American cinema is usually a specific punching bag -- especially for writers discerning enough to give credit to the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul...

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