Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The fringes of pop culture converged at the Javitz Center for the New York Comic Con last weekend, creating a fan-filled orgy of awesomeness. Mainstream celebrity appearances (for example, Stephen Colbert promoting his irreverent cartoon Tek Jansen) were less noteworthy than the sheer celebration of synthesizing imagination with entertainment. Fame took a backseat to fandom, particularly when Kevin Smith moderated a panel featuring cast members from “Battlestar Galactica”: The characteristically frank filmmaker admitted that the show’s quality might be indirectly linked to his lack of involvement in its production.

Continue reading about New York Comic Con in the New York Press...


Pimps, Pigs and Prostitutes: Shohei Imamura's Japan

The reason that Japanese New Wave filmmaker Shohei Imamura, who died last year at 79, never made a big splash in American is simple: Western audiences tend to enjoy their Far East entertainment with a strong dose of Orientalism. The director, whose massive body of work gets showcased in a comprehensive retrospective at the BAMcinematek starting this week March 2, handled sordid themes that could qualify him as Japan’s Martin Scorsese. Although such a comparison doesn’t take into account that Imamura emerged a generation earlier than his American equivalent and built a steady filmography that continued into the 21st century.

Read the rest of the review in the New York Press...

Black Sun

The idea that a documentary could assume the perspective of a blind man initially seems paradoxical. Movies, after all, are essentially a visual art form; remove the image and the remaining elements become an entirely different medium. Cinema had already made a global impact when audio became de rigueur for most productions in the late ’20s, and many people felt that talkies carried the transience of a passing fad. It’s nice to hear Al Jolson sing, but does anybody care to know what Charlie Chaplin sounds like? It takes the illusion of motion to involve audiences in the act of viewing.

Read the rest of the review in the New York Press...

Grey Matters

How many times must we be subjected to opening montages of the New York City skyline before filmmakers realize that it’s a trite and pretentious device? True, Woody Allen's memorable introductory sequence to Manhattan, which displays every famous hotspot under the sun against George Gershwin’s inimitable "Rhapsody in Blue," holds its own as a lyrical expression of urbanity. But that's Woody Allen; his movies are off-putting when they’re not in New York. The first few minutes of Gray Matters showcase a slew of familiar architectural sights from the metropolitan area, with all the pizazz of a tourist brochure. It's enough to set eyes rolling even before the plot kicks in; and in this case, that’s saying something.

Read the rest of the review in The Reeler...

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Days of Glory

War films almost unanimously adhere to the opposing tones of triumph and tragedy. (Dr. Strangelove and its jeering ilk deal more directly with the larger existential irony of an impending apocalypse.) The first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan tend to leave audiences feeling desecrated as the harrowing experience of D-Day becomes viscerally realized before them. From there, the movie begins a gradual uphill climb to the opposite end of the continuum. The final image, a magnificent American flag waving in the breeze, signifies the optimism in honoring the memories of fallen soldiers. Consider that model against Days of Glory (or Indigènes as it’s known overseas). This downbeat saga also recalls the heroism of World War II fighters who opposed their Nazi foe, but their efforts went unnoticed—and their sacrifices were forgotten.

Continue reading about Days of Glory in the New York Press...

Friday, February 16, 2007


Danny Glover set an appropriately contemplative tone for the sold-out crowd at Film Forum on Wednesday night: He kicked off the New York theatrical premiere of the improvisational drama Bamako by recalling his origins as a human rights activist. "When I was a young student, I read African Socialism," the veteran actor said, referring to the writings of the revered former Tanzanian president Julius Nyere. "It's the reason I ended up majoring in economics, [and] thinking that at some point I would go to Tanzania and work with the government in some capacity."

Then Glover -- who has, for every rash Lethal Weapon installment, donated twice as much effort to righteous global initiatives -- read an excerpt from his original inspiration. "What is needed is that the people care for each other's welfare," went the passage, in part. "It is not efficiency of production, nor the amount of wealth in a country, which makes millionaires; it is the uneven distribution of what is produced."

Continue reading about Bamako in The Reeler...

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Avenue Montaigne

Call it the Robert Altman aesthetic: A large cast of diverse performers come together within the confines of a single, unifying location; their characters possess varying degrees of education in accordance with their age and class, and universal emotional turmoil unites their fraught experiences. It’s a daring proposition, but it can work beautifully (Altman’s Short Cuts) and disastrously (Paul Haggis’ Crash). The technique falls to the middle of this spectrum in Avenue Montaigne, a light movie with heavy intentions.

Read more about Avenue Montaigne in the New York Press...

The Decomposition of the Soul

November 9, 1989: Down went the Berlin Wall, dragging the weight of the entire German Democratic Republic along with it. Authoritarian governments fall hard, and this one hit rock bottom with the resounding thud of oppression that had lasted half a century. The government's clandestine security team, the Stasi, had developed wildly demoralizing techniques of deconstructing the ideological resolve of citizens imprisoned for supposedly harboring politically subversive opinions. When the regime collapsed, Stasi officials destroyed numerous incriminating documents, but for the prisoners subjected to the tortuous mind games, the experience remained firmly imprinted on their psyches. This cruel psychological permanence provides filmmakers Nina Toussaint and Massimo Ianetta with the abstract framework of The Decomposition of the Soul, an experimental documentary that fascinates despite its structural flaws.

Read more in The Reeler...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


The first rule of Sundance is that you talk about Sundance. A lot. More than 20 years have passed since Robert Redford’s institute for upstart filmmakers absorbed the annual responsibilities of the U.S. Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and incessant chatter of industry and media types continues to circulate around the intimate resort town, full of sound and fury. It started, arguably, when the scraggly 26-year-old director Steven Soderbergh skyrocketed to national acclaim after the success of sex, lies, and videotape at the festival in 1989. Echoing the revitalized American cinema of the early ’70s, small movies suddenly appealed to studios. As the legend goes, Sundance became a launch pad for aspiring craftsmen eager to dive into the whirlwind of fame.

Continue reading about Sundance in the New York Press...

Factory Girl

Forget all that blabber about whether or not there’s real sex in Factory Girl. If Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen really go all the way—their murky love scene makes that seem unlikely—it would be the most elegant thing about this misguided biopic. For all the appreciable intentions of director George Hickenlooper, you can get a better feel for the sad demise of Andy Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick from the clips available on YouTube.

Read the rest of the review in the New York Press...