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Now and Then

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    Now and Then: Gay Biopics 'J. Edgar' and 'Milk' Reveal How History Is Made

    "We must never forget our history," growls aging anti-Communist lion J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) near the end of "J. Edgar." "We must never lower our guard." Here, Janus-like in their fusion and opposition, lay the film's two faces: To narrate the past and hopefully to redeem it.

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    Now and Then: Dunham's 'Tiny Furniture' Bodes Well for HBO's 'Girls'

    Midway through "Tiny Furniture," writer-director-star Lena Dunham launches into a monologue — a tantrum, really — that smacks of a tin ear. The plaintive wails seem ginned up for "dramatic effect," though the real effect is to undercut the film's poignant understanding of how scary "coming-of-age" s...

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    Now and Then: 'The Getaway' and 'Drive' — Heist Films with Arthouse Roots

    To call "The Getaway" (1972) a heist flick is like calling "Jaws" a film about fish: technically speaking you'd be right, but you'd also be missing the point entirely. Sam Peckinpah's Steve McQueen/Ali MacGraw vehicle is a tough, mean, innovative picture in which "getting away" has to do with a lot...

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    Now and Then: Making Sense of Miranda July

    I am not a Miranda July hater. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (2005) felt almost painfully fresh to me — I'd never seen anything like it. It had, in offbeat colors and patterns, a preternatural understanding that love and sex vibrate on wavelengths we can't quite see or hear, only sense.

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    Now and Then: In Political Films, Reality Trumps Fiction

    "The Ides of March," George Clooney's latest directorial effort, promises by its very title a mixture of danger, betrayal, and warped power. What we get, though, is more disquisition than thrill ride, a technically sound but ultimately unfeeling film about the cynicism of modern politics.

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    Now and Then: In Directing Debut, Farmiga Reaches 'Higher Ground'

    "Higher Ground," the actress Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, plays like a fugue. It circles back and folds in on itself, its repeated images — a children's book, worshippers in song, immersion in water — propelled not by forward momentum but by changes of key.

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    Now and Then: In 'Contagion' and 'Children of Men,' Disaster Runs Cold and Hot

    The opening minutes of "Contagion" are all surface, literally. A bowl of peanuts on the bartop, a swiped credit card, an elevator button, the human hand: each is a vector of death itself, a pandemic already in motion. With the rasp of a cough, a title card tells us we're in "Day 2." It's terrifying....

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    Now and Then: Why The Descendants Should Win Best Picture

    "The Descendants" starts slow, muddied by voiceover and unclear intentions. But it soon sneaks up on you, deepening — ripening, really — until it achieves something approaching wisdom.

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    Now and Then: Two Docs Test the Limits of What We Know About Those We Love

    On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler left the New York campground where she was vacationing and began her trip home to Long Island with her two children and three nieces in tow.

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    Now and Then: For Woody Allen, the Place is the Thing, from Manhattan to Midnight in Paris

    When asked about Woody Allen's New York, critics often cite the glorious black-and-white Gershwin cinepoem that opens “Manhattan” (1979). I’ve always been partial, though, to the rough magic of Diane Keaton’s terrible driving in “Annie Hall” (1977). (See clips below.)

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