Film Features

Birth of a sensation

Ellen Page and Juno
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Unplanned pregnancy is so stylish these days. As Waitress, Knocked Up, and now Juno have demonstrated, we've come a long way since a downtrodden Madonna informed Danny Aiello of her delicate condition in the "Papa Don't Preach" video (1986). Of course, Juno is the only film among 2007's baby-on-board crew to seriously consider abortion and settle on adoption; it's also the most sympathetic to its female protagonist, who is thankfully more relatable than Keri Russell's small-town pie chef or Katherine Heigl's impossibly hot TV reporter. Read more »

Cinema critiques sinophilia

The videos of Ellen Zweig
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Just as the serious-minded traveler to a foreign land sacrifices certainty and ease of understanding to derive fresh insight, viewers of Ellen Zweig's video works must jettison their expectation of narrative in order to embrace Zweig's fragmentation — its disorientation and truthfulness. Her interwoven snippets of interview, performance, and language are decontextualized in a way that is apropos of her thematic consideration of how Westerners construct, imagine, and experience China and Chinese-ness from a distance. Read more »

Purple penetrator

Guy Ritchie reaches -- and reaches -- for his Revolver
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Being rich and famous dupes so many into thinking they have profound life wisdom that must be shared. Is it simple narcissism? Is it that when material desires are fulfilled too easily, spirituality becomes the top high-end item left to acquire?

Guy Ritchie may do stupid things, like remaking Lina Wertmüller's reactionary-in-1974 Swept Away as a 2002 vehicle for his wife, Madonna, whose acting kills entire movies on contact. But he's also clever, at least regarding surfaces. Read more »

Eaux d'Anger

A kinder, gentler DVD magus leads a magic-lantern tour
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Whither Kenneth Anger? Has his signature hot temper withered into kind, grandfatherly wisdom? If the commentary tracks of the marvelous Films of Kenneth Anger Volume One and Films of Kenneth Anger Volume Two (Fantoma) are to be trusted, this is the case. But one can't be faulted for suspecting that Anger has consciously decided to favor restraint over verbal fireworks when discussing his films. Read more »

Talk talk

Beneath the mumbling lies the roiling core of Hannah Takes the Stairs
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"I don't like things that are about what they are."

The title character of Hannah Takes the Stairs says this to a coworker. The quip, though, constitutes something of a wink from the film's director, Joe Swanberg, a leading light of a group of loose-knit DIY filmmakers regrettably known by the mumblecore moniker. Read more »

Uncuddly Leigh

Margot at the Wedding and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the movies
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Jennifer Jason Leigh is nearly 50 years old. She looks about 15 years younger, yet without that plastic appearance redolent of cosmetic surgery. For a while she was a real movie star, if not quite a popular one, sustaining widely seen films through performances such as her homicidal nut in Single White Female (1992) and tightly wound abuse victim in Dolores Clairborne (1995). Read more »

All about Bob

Todd Haynes dives deep into Dylan with I'm Not There
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It's not that I'm anti–Bob Dylan. I've just never been a fan in particular. I'm too young or too fond of metal or too shallow or some combination of the three. But I found I'm Not There — Todd Haynes's sorta biopic of the icon — entirely fascinating. By now you've heard the pitch: six actors (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw) play facets of Dylan without actually playing Dylan, though Bale and Blanchett come dangerously close. Read more »

Remain in light

Chasing after Aquarius with the Source Family
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"The body, and its pleasures and powers, is rarely far from the spirit in California," Erik Davis writes in his introduction to Isis Aquarian's firsthand account The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and the Source Family (Process). Read more »

Goldie winner -- Film: Kerry Laitala

Antique magic lantern muse of cinema
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A casual observer might simply call Kerry Laitala a filmmaker and leave it at that. But anyone who's seen her spooky, intricate, delightfully creative works, including 2003's Out of the Ether, 2005's Torchlight Tango, and 2006's Muse of Cinema, would certainly disagree. Read more »

Goldie winner -- Film: Samara Halperin

Plastic and fantastic schoolhouse sex toys go pop
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It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're watching the films of Samara Halperin. Take, for example, the minute-long Plastic Fantastic #1 (2006). Jaunty bleeps keep the beat as a pair of ketchup-and-mustard-bedecked hot dogs are shredded into meaty octopuses. Read more »