Max Goldberg

Full disclosure

Secrecy investigates executive power and the need-to-know
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"If you wouldn't tell Stalin, don't tell anyone." This billboard message casts us back to the New Mexico desert, where a mushroom cloud's worth of paranoia ushered in the modern era of government secrecy. Harvard professors Peter Galison and Robb Moss base their guide to this dark world on interviews with former "secureaucrats" and watchdog lawyers, journalists and scholars. But even without a voice-over, Secrecy's editorial threads are clear. Read more »

Never grow up

Momma's Man is a welcome portrait of the artist as a thumb-sucker
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REVIEW Azazel Jacobs' portrait of the artist as a regressive thumb-sucker is a welcome antidote to Hollywood's inane home-for-the-holidays pictures. Jacobs' counterculture parents, the experimental filmmaker Ken and his painter wife Flo, were sporting enough to play Ma and Dad to Mikey (Matt Boren). The slouchy 30-something purposefully misses his flight back to wife and baby in New York, and lands back in the family nest in a deep funk. Read more »

Songs in silver

Avocet's experiments in resonance and unconventional fascination
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Meara O'Reilly has brought a book to our meeting at a café near her Mission District apartment. The author is Mary Hallock-Greenewalt, a visionary musician-inventor who worked toward synthesizing light and sound in the 1920s. Read more »

New lost blues

Going further -- and farther out -- at the first Frisco Freakout
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I began noticing the signs soon after moving to the Bay Area: Arthur Magazine, revivals of Alejandro Jodorowsky's movies, and print dresses and feathers all pointed to a vogue for the psychedelic aesthetic extending beyond the tie-dyed Haight. Psychedelic rock is the 800-pound gorilla of San Francisco music, though subsequent punk scenes clustering around Mabuhay Gardens and 924 Gilman defined themselves in direct opposition to its flower-power. Read more »

Speak, memory

A five-point look at Kino21's five-part war doc series, "How We Fight: Conscripts, Mercenaries, Terrorists, and Peacekeepers"
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(1) War demands chronicling as few human endeavors do, with representations spanning from cave drawings to cell phone photographs. German experimental filmmaker Hito Steyerl considers the volatility particular to the filmic war document in her elegant short November (2004), playing in Kino21's series "How We Fight: Conscripts, Mercenaries, Terrorists, and Peacekeepers" (kicking off Sept. 25 and continuing through October, with the last program screening Nov. 23). Read more »

"Trouble the Water"

Rappers, it turns out, make the best reporters in this amazing Katrina doc
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REVIEW Anyone impressed by Cloverfield's camcorder frenzy needs to see the remarkable video diary Kimberly Roberts made in New Orleans' Ninth Ward while Katrina wailed and the government balked. Trouble the Water directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal initially came to the city in hopes of investigating the way in which National Guard support was waylaid by an America being stretched thin in Iraq. The film opens with the directors talking to a bureaucrat, but within moments Roberts and her husband Scott bum rush the side of the frame and never let go. Read more »

"The Exiles" on Main Street

A lost American vision returns to light up the night at the Castro
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TAKE ONE For a sharp perspective on Kent Mackenzie's neglected 1961 classic The Exiles, push aside most contemporary reviews heralding the film's rerelease. In the spring of 1962, Benjamin Jackson reviewed Mackenzie's debut feature for Film Quarterly, and began by noting something no one today seems to think worth mentioning: only 28 years before The Exiles came out, the American Indians who starred in the movie weren't even considered citizens by the US government.Read more »

Guy Maddin's special specimen

My Winnipeg
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REVIEW We all knew it was his Winnipeg after gobstoppers like Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) and The Saddest Music in the World (2003), but Guy Maddin certainly puts a fine point on it with his latest. Finally, a Maddin film that fully incorporates the homely comic-pathos of his essays and movie reviews. In My Winnipeg, the Canuck filmmaker's punch-drunk dissolves and superimpositions aren't just cinematographic cake-frosting; they're visual portents and analogues of his seasick crawl through the past. Read more »

Bittersweet symphonies

Erstwhile June Brides vocalist Phil Wilson wields Industrial Strength pop
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Indie culture tends to romanticize dog-eared production as a sign of authenticity rather than one of limited means. When I interviewed Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang last winter, they emphasized how they strove for professionalism designing Galaxie 500's epochal album sleeves and then laughed when we talked about how younger bands try to recreate their so-called handmade quality. Read more »

Diaboliques

Catherine Breillat dishes out a fatal attraction in The Last Mistress
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Sex is such an unalloyed force in Catherine Breillat's films that it actually seems to consume narrative. Among a controversial lot that includes Fat Girl (2001) and Romance (1999), The Last Mistress is unique for its classical trimmings, but its plot points and character development are still no more or less important than the emotional content of a moan. All the French writer-director's films are anatomies of hell, but this time she's courting provocations instead of simply imposing them. Read more »