Film Features

Occult classic

SFIFF taps into the magic of Harry
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Harry Smith is a folk hero. Smith's masterwork, the definitive, meticulously edited Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), was the bible of the ’60s folk movement that spawned Dylan, Baez, Fahey, and others. To discover it is to stumble into a forgotten, marginalized world, a portal to as Greil Marcus put it in his book about Dylan's Basement Tapes "a weird but clearly recognizable America."Read more »

Pick: Thank You for Smoking

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SATIRE Outfitted with a name that sounds shiny and desirable, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is in the business of eating shit with a smile, then pretending that aforementioned shit is, in fact, a brand! new! renewable! energy source! Such jaw-dropping insincerity is a must when you've got his job: chief national public-relations shill for the tobacco industry. There's no putting a good face on the promotion and sales of "cancer sticks" anymore, is there? Read more »

Big skies, broken hearts

Wenders and Shepard revisit Paris, Texas by way of Butte, Montana
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In the not-so-Wild West, where assistant directors on Segways roam, washed-up matinee idol Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) gallops right off the set of his latest picture, appropriately dubbed Phantom of the West. Where Howard's headed at the start of Don't Come Knocking

The 'ol whizbang

Oh! What a Lovely War substitutes for a cowardly current-day Hollywood
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Given that the phrase another Vietnam (with or without fucking in the middle) probably passes through lips somewhere every .0000398 seconds at present, it might be a good moment to ponder differences between war-themed movies from the 1960s and today.

Admittedly, the Vietnam War had been going on for a while by the time significant mainstream movieland responses emerged. Among them were John Wayne's notorious The Green Berets, the morally ambiguous Patton, and myriad antiwar diatribes, of which Catch-22, MASH, Little Big Man, Joe, and Soldier Blue were just the tip

Whose cheatin' Heart?

A fable of our era leaps - or hobbles - from page to screen
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Asia Argento's The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things is the preposterous story, once widely imagined to be true, of the childhood of Jeremiah "JT" LeRoy, as he bounces between the custody of his foster parents, his prostitute mother, and his sadistic, fundamentalist grandparents. Read more »

DNA

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For proof – as if any is needed – that television is overwhelmingly a right-wing medium, one need only contemplate the manner in which DNA evidence is cited in the glut of true crime shows that crowd A&E, CourtTV, and other networks. Almost without fail, DNA is shown being used to convict the guilty. It is presented as proof that the legal system – with scientific help – is just and right. Read more »

Behind and beyond bars

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Perhaps the best book written about a wrongly convicted man is Jack Olsen's Last Man Standing, a chronicle of the 27 years Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt spent caged in a California prison thanks to crooked FBI agents and Los Angeles cops. The narrative starts with Pratt's childhood in Louisiana, tracks his involvement in the Black Panther party and the decades he spent dwelling in the American gulag, and concludes with his triumphant release from prison thanks to the tireless lawyering of Stuart Hanlon and the late Johnnie Cochran. Read more »

Princess diaries

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Most teen starlets are probably satisfied to look their hottest on press junkets and don the cutest duds they can find at Fred Segal. But at 15, Q'Orianka Kilcher isn't your average Teen Vogue pinup. Perhaps it's indicative of the added expectations – and attendant ambitions – that come with playing Pocahontas in Terrence Malick's The New World, but Kilcher seemed to be firing on all cylinders, in terms of accomplishments, when she showed up at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton in gorgeous multiskinned boots and a covetable leather jacket, both of which she made herself. Read more »

Native son

Terrence Malick digs deep into America's past with The New World
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The John Smith-Pocahontas romance has long been a cornerstone of America's mythical landscape. He being the original Man Who Knows Indians (an archetype sealed by James Fenimore Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans), and she standing in for the land itself: Embodying equal parts purity and promise, Pocahontas represents an ideal, a paradise. The myth of their doomed love speaks to how this paradise was won and then lost. Read more »

'MirrorMask'

Looking-glass eyes
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EVEN IF YOU aren't familiar with any of MirrorMask's touchstones