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Doc Corner: McQueen

"It's an excellent film, very well balanced, full of fascinating talking heads, and beautifully put together." -Edward L

"This should be the fashion documentary that makes it through to the final 5." - Peggy Sue

"I saw this in the UK last week. I was fascinated --especially the relationship with Blow and reflections on his gender politics. Would recommend." - catbaskets

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Entries in Reviews (618)

Sunday
Apr212013

Smash: Opening Night

Glenn here, one of the few remaing Smashites who will be with this dear show until the bitter end. I'm not going to mince words here: "Opening Night" was the best episode of the season so far. This is for a multitude of reasons that we'll get in to briefly, but mostly it's because "Hit List" barely factored. And when it did it was in the shadow of "Bombshell", the musical gets hailed the hit of the season. Too bad they didn't get that "love letter from The Times" that Liza so beautifully sang about a couple of weeks back.

2.12 "Opening Night"

This week is "Bombshell" heavy as opening night occurs and all the anticipation and exhiliration and drama and disappointment that comes with it. This is a good thing, folks, and "Hit List" thankfully takes a sidestep (although the show's writers can't help but force it upon Smash even when there are far more important things to be worrying about).

Ivy is naturally worried about the reviews... [more]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr162013

Smash: Surprise Parties & Dress Rehearsals

I promise I'm still watching Smash. Unlike America, that fictionally monolothic "America", which has been fleeing Smash in droves each week; the media has major schadenfreude with this show's ratings with headline's boasting "record lows!" each week. I'm just not as quick with my write-ups. Oddly, as the show is improving and slowly working its way back to Season 1 quality levels my drive to discuss is as wishy washy as all of the show's plotlines.

"All" should not be mistaken for "many" though. There are still but two major plots: "Bombshell" the Marilyn Monroe musical stumbles through endless landmines of the emotional, financial, artistic and public relations variety as it works its way towards opening night whilst "Hit List" the fringe musical about something or other (I've lost track -- it seems to change each week) which doesn't seem to have any obstacles that aren't solved in seconds as it races from one pivotal metamorphosis to another. It was a vague idea a handful of episodes ago, then a fringe success, and now suddenly a buzzy Off Broadway hit that's already threatening to transfer to the Great White Way.

But one thing it doesn't have is a naked Marilyn! more

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Wednesday
Apr032013

Smash: "The Bells and Whistles" & "The Parents"

I'm short on time and Smash is trying to burn off its episodes given that two will air this very week. But we've got two to catch up on as well so let's rush through like we're running out of breath on a big note.

Ivy is back to being Marilyn in "Bombshell"

more...

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Sunday
Mar312013

Review: "The Place Beyond the Pines"

This review was originally published in my weekly column at Towleroad

Handsome Luke at the Fairgrounds

The opening shot from THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, is a stunner. And not only because it starts with a view of a well-muscled and inked masculine torso. The camera follows the man (we don't see his face) as he paces back and forth, plays with a knife and then walks through a fairground where he turns heads and prompts amateur snapshots. Finally the camera catches his face. It's "Handsome Luke" (Ryan Gosling), a daredevil motorcylist about to defy death and gravity in a round metal cage. As soon as we've seen 'Handsome Gosling,' though, Luke throws a motorcyle helmet on depriving us of his Movie Star mug and enters the cage to perform miraculous stunts. As I recall there aren't any edits in this shot and I have no idea how it was filmed unless Ryan Gosling moonlights as a stuntman in addition to his many many other talents (like naming his body parts, and inspiring hilarious fandom and popular internet memes).

This lengthy continuous shot with its 'now you see him, now you don't' movie-star tease is a pretty apt description of the movie to come which is something of a bait-and-switch with a prominent throughline. [more]

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Friday
Mar222013

Two TV Takes: "Southland" & "Bates Motel"

As I wait anxiously for the next great TV series to arrive -- where are you? -- I thought we should talk a little about two very different shows and the axis of Concept and Execution. Mad Men gets "A"s in both but most TV shows have to struggle through by leaning on one or the other. Having a good and/or original concept can win you a lot of leeway if your execution is problematic (see: Smash) but what of the inverse? Enter... Southland now in its 4th season. On the surface and at its core Southland is just another police procedural. You've seen it before and you will see it again.

So why the hell is Southland so damn good?

"How to Be Awesome"
The answer is all in the Execution. more...

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Monday
Mar112013

Capsules: 28 Hotel Rooms, Yossi, Caesar Must Die

In an effort to review every new film I see this year --  a task I have never accomplished but there's a first time for everything -- I will resort to capsules like these when I haven't reviewed properly. (I realize that my "Oscar" section of reviews implies that all films should be seen through this prism. This implication is not literal or an endorsement -- it's just something that's fun for me and some of you to think about.)

YOSSI
We're ten years on from Yossi & Jagger and Yossi is now a doctor, who buries himself in work to avoid living life or moving beyond that love cut short. When a chance encounter with Jagger's mother shakes him from his stupor, he ends up on holiday. Some of the notes are beautifully played -- the early tearful scene with Jagger's mother is super -- but Yossi is a maddeningly passive protagonist. The film happens to him rather than with hi, or even with his permission. He stubbornly refuses to participate in his own story which makes the redemptive new romance a really tough pill to swallow. Why would this vivacious younger man be interested in Yossi when Yossi himself isn't interested... in anything!? 

Yossi & Jagger & Tom

Grade(I would have loved to heartily endorse this movie because Yossi & Jagger was such a perfectly pitched mini-gem but it frustrated me despite a few really strong moments. So if you haven't seen Yossi & Jagger, please do rent it.)
Best in Show: Oz Zehavi almost sells you on the unfortunately lopsided romance as the young soldier Tom but I have to hand this one (emphatically) to Orly Silbersatz Banai as Varda, Jagger's mother who packs a surprising amount of drama into her two scenes. The rug is pulled out from under her but since she kept pretending the rug didn't even exist for ten-plus years...
Oscar Chances: Writer/director Eytan Fox has made 4 feature-length films prior to this one, and most of them have received international release, but he has yet to be selected for submission to represent Israel at the Oscars.

28 HOTEL ROOMS
A novelist (Chris Messina) and an accountant (Marin Ireland) have a fling in a hotel room on a business trip. She tells him it's one and done but they keep meeting on subsequent trips and a confusing, passionate relationship develops. It lasts for years. This is undoubtedly a 'one for the reel' project for both actors and sometimes plays like an acting exercize albeit a good one. Though it never quite transcends its gimmick (the title is the structure), it's affecting despite or maybe even because of the limitations of scope; their lives outside of these rooms begin to feel like fantasy or, in the inverse, like intrusions of reality on fantasy. (But honestly, for a drama that hinges on sexual compatability, it could've used a couple more sex scenes, or longer ones that developed the relationship. This is possible to do in sex scenes. See the great Israeli drama Late Marriage (2001) which is the film I always think of when I think of sex scenes that function as integral narrative and character development, like a great song in a musical or a perfect setpiece in an action film.

GradeB
Best in Show: It's a complete duet so it'd be rude to pick one!
Oscar Chances?: This was from 2012 and got a teensy-teensy release. Now available on DVD.

CAESAR MUST DIE
This Berlinale winner from the Taviani brothers recreate an art therapy program of sorts in which inmates perform plays. By filming at a prison where they saw a play performed by inmates (a different play) with some real inmates and some actors, some play scenes and some scripted discussion of play scenes the movie effectively walks a line between documentary and drama. The line is no highwire though. The reality and fiction of the program and this particular production is blurred enough that the film never has the knife's edge of real danger that you'd think you'd feel watching real prisoners acting out murder plots, politics and betrayals. As we crosscut between auditions, production, and both formal and informal rehearsals we see the art begin to bleed into life for the inmates. The end result is intermittently moving as most productions of great work tend to be but it feels strangely abitrary; why wasn't it just a documentary?
Grade: B
Best in Show: Salvatore Striano as Brutus. There's a reason he became a professional actor after prison.
Oscar Chances?: Italy submitted this Cannes winner for Oscar consideration last season. It was one of the highest profile titles to not make the 9-wide finalist list.