Dennis Harvey

Blood money

Three movies explore why the US is broke
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Most Americans are fairly sure they are being screwed where it hurts most: in the wallet. But if they think they know why, it's usually a red herring, while the actual primary causes of shrinking financial stability remain obscured by propaganda, media inattention, and institutional stonewalling. By timely coincidence, three worthwhile documentaries opening this week shine some light on the matter. Read more »

Snoop on the East side

The Lives of Others looks at peepers
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Doin' the 'Dance

Taking stock of Sundance
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Sundance has become a spectator business event, like the weekly box office returns. This year turned out to be a surprise bull market when the same buyers who went in saying there was little of apparent commercial appeal on the program wound up spending tens of millions in an acquisitions frenzy. I didn't get to see Son of Rambow, an '80s nostalgia piece about action movie–obsessed kids that earned a cool $8 million distribution deal. But that movie at least sounds like real fun. Read more »

The ballad of Carmelo

Romantico proves documentaries can be gorgeous and soulful
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By the time you read this, a whole lot of filmmakers, publicists, journalists, and miscellaneous affiliates from Los Angeles will have once again descended on Utah for the annual feeding frenzy known as Sundance. Just what the aforementioned feed on isn't always or exactly movies — the original raison d'être can get lost in the general scuffle. Read more »

F stands for family ...

... and for fucked up -- an apt tag for 2006's movie kin
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It is not — finally — a good moment to be a social conservative, as the Republicans have finally failed enough on so many fronts that their failure is being acknowledged. Evidence increasingly suggests large segments of the population don't really care that much about the terrifying threat of gay marriage, don't want to turn the clock way back on abortion rights, and prefer keeping church and state as they're supposed to be: separate. Read more »

For Your Consideration

For your critical devastation
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People like Christopher Guest's improv-based comedies — This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind — in a peculiarly self-satisfied way, confident that enjoying them means they’re in on a sophisticated joke that the ordinary Adam Sandler–liking rabble don’t get. Yet for all their small joys, Guest's films make me wish they had big ones — bigger laughs, sharper satire, more narrative drive. The actors automatically raise a smile because we've loved them so many times before. But are they the best judges of their material? Read more »

Oh, Alejandro

Babel goes ambulance chasing across the globe
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These days finesse in the art of montage is too often used to compensate for ineptitude (or just laziness) in the art of storytelling. Of course, rhythmic, Eisensteinian montage can be beautiful in itself and can even bear the weight of actual substance. Read more »

Head of Hopper

The Last Movie: Dennis on a plate
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CULT MOVIE Movie history is full of figures who could do no wrong one minute, then blew it — never trusted to do right again — the next. This year alone something like this happened to the richly deserving M. Read more »

Naughty is nice

ConteXXXtualizing Shortbus. Plus: Swinging Scandinavians!
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Once upon a time, a fair number of people, heartened by the Sexual Revolution and the corresponding collapse of censorship in movies, thought porn was just the preliminary phase to the next obvious step: soon, they assumed, mainstream films would also have real, explicit sex.
The last time anybody thought that was probably 1975 — or if really stoned, 1977. But for a while there, that wild idea seemed not only possible but inevitable. Deep Throat pretty much closed the obscenity conviction book on consenting adults watching adult content in public venues. Read more »

Pedro's progress

An incomplete retrospective charts Almodóvar's shift from outrage to profundity
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Poor Generalissimo Franco, not yet dead a decade before the Spanish film industry he'd so carefully censored gained its new leading tastemaker: a plump, girly homo fond of gender blur, anticlericalism, and nuclear-family meltdowns. Twenty-two years have passed since What Have I Done to Deserve This? Read more »