Film Review

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 »

Romania dreamin'

Cinematically speaking, Bucharest is best
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Programmers in the film festival, cinematheque, and rep-house exhibition worlds are forever hunting for undiscovered cinematic flavors. They are like truffle-sniffing pigs. No offense intended — after all, truffles are valuable for their rarity. Read more »

Raising the barre

The American Indian Film Fest kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies
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Marking National American Indian Heritage Month, the American Indian Film Festival kicks off with a pair of ballet-dancer biographies. Of course, you know one of 'em is gonna be about eternally elegant George Balanchine muse Maria Tallchief — and indeed, Sandra Osawa's Maria Tallchief will have its world premiere at the fest. Praised as the first American prima ballerina and a standout in an art form that had, until her rise to prominence in the 1940s, been largely European, Tallchief brought audiences to their feet and critics to tears. Read more »

On the verge

Terror's Advocate adds to Barbet Schroeder's library of alluring evil
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The title of Barbet Schroeder's new documentary, Terror's Advocate, evokes Keanu Reeves's role as Kevin Lomax, a lawyer seduced by Satan (Al Pacino) in 1997's The Devil's Advocate. Reeves's character crosses the line into evil when he gets a child molester off on a technicality; next thing you know, he's living in Manhattan, making big bucks, and being seduced by the lesbian minions of Satan in an elevator while his wife (Charlize Theron) has her womb ripped out. Read more »

Fellini in Arkansas

Seeing "Red-State Cinema"
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"Ahm tired uh yer uppity, citified ways!" leering slob Odis (Gene Ross) tells houseguest Helen (Norma Moore) in S.F. Brownrigg's Poor White Trash II, a 1974 movie also known by the equally savory title Scum of the Earth. Read more »