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Now and Then

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    Now and Then: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

    Early in "Meet Me in St. Louis," Esther Smith (Judy Garland) pines for the boy next door. Lent silky grace by Garland's perfect warble, Esther describes love — and, by extension, Vincente Minnelli's 1944 classic. "I want it to be something strange and wonderful," she says. "Something I'll always rem...

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    Now and Then: 'Brazil,' Terry Gilliam's Dystopia — And Ours, Too

    To my discredit, I had never seen "Brazil." It sat atop my pile of screeners for a few weeks, its length and reputation forbidding. Like all dystopian fictions, Terry Gilliam's 1985 epic is a prophecy of sorts, guesswork for a grim future. And it turned out he was right.

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    Now and Then: The Rachel Weisz Argument, or the Best Performers of the Year

    Last week, the NYFCC awarded Rachel Weisz its Best Actress prize for her sumptuous period turn in "The Deep Blue Sea," and well-deserved it was. But it reminded me of what I'm calling the Rachel Weisz Argument: an actor's entire body of work in a given year is a better measure of "best."

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    Now and Then: In Harmony, 'Life of Pi' and 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Are the Best Films of the Year

    One is a grand, sea-borne spectacle, a master's first glorious foray into 3-D. The other, like its breakout star, is a furious miniature whose impact far outweighs its size. But both "Life of Pi" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" are fervently alive to the world of nature, of spirit — two halves of ...

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    Now and Then: 'Heaven's Gate,' Catastrophe or Classic?

    Once reviled, Michael Cimino's controversial "Heaven's Gate" (1980) may remain — despite the Criterion Collection's effort to resuscitate it — a cautionary tale of directorial hubris, Hollywood excess, and wayward ambition. The real moral of the film, however, is far simpler: "Heaven's Gate" is an o...

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    Now and Then: 'Lincoln,' the Movies, and Historical Accuracy

    "Lincoln" is no dour disquisition, no romance of an imagined past, but a heroic, even thrilling drama of compromise and chicanery in the midst of the Civil War. Indeed, it resolves one of the medium's oldest conundrums: "Lincoln" is that rare thing, good history and great cinema at once.

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    Now and Then: 'Your Sister's Sister,' Lost in the Oscar Shuffle

    As much as I enjoy awards chatter, this time of year can be frustrating. Spring, summer, even early fall releases that merit attention melt away before the campaigns of the heavy hitters. Lynn Shelton's lovely character study "Your Sister's Sister" won't factor in the Oscar race, and maybe it doesn'...

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    Now and Then: After the Storm, Portraits of Tenacity in Recovery

    As a resident of a city whose history of storms — and their concomitant unnatural disasters — is troubled at best, I watched Sandy warily but distantly. Thing always look different outside the "cone of uncertainty." The images coming in from the Northeast this morning put me in a more solemn frame o...

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    Now and Then: 'Four,' Moving Portrait of Love and Sex in the Time of Craigslist

    "Four," director Joshua Sanchez's remarkably honest, empathic adaptation of Christopher Shinn's play about a quartet of lovelorn folks in a modern age, works on you slowly. It's taken me about a week since seeing it at the New Orleans Film Festival to suss out just how complex and world weary it is,...

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    Now and Then: At NOFF, Indie Comedies 'It's a Disaster' and 'Supporting Characters' Impress

    "It's a Disaster" is something you title your film only if you have a lot of faith in the project. The pun, for a critic disposed to go negative, is almost pathetically easy. Fortunately for writer/director Todd Berger, such confidence is well deserved. "It's a Disaster" is hilarious.

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