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On Set with Flamethrowers: Keith Thomas on Firestarter

Ryan Kiera Armstrong in Firestarter (2022)Ryan Kiera Armstrong in Firestarter

Released in the fall of 1980, while Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining continued to horrify audiences in theaters, Stephen King’s eighth novel, Firestarter, tells the story of Charlie McGee, a young girl struggling to control her pyrokinetic powers. Her parents knew this would be an issue: years earlier, Andy and Vicky McGee participated in a trial run of a new chemical compound, Lot Six, that embedded telekinetic and mind-controlling powers that shady government officials now wish to end. A run in with Rainbird, who had also been experimented on and now acts as a hired assassin wiping out his own kind, leaves mom dead; father and daughter go on the run, with Charlie learning to control and channel…  Read more

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Czech That Film, Highlighting Recent Czech Cinema, Runs Online Through May 22

Czech That Film, the annual festival highlighting the best of recent Czech cinema, is now in the midst of its 11th edition. The festival has customarily travelled to over 20 cities, but given the ongoing pandemic, this year's edition is partially online, with films available to stream on the Artinii platform. From the website: The event was established to accommodate increased interest in Czech cinema and culture in the United States and is dedicated to raising profile of current Czech films at an international level. It provides an opportunity for American enthusiasts of global cinema to experience successful new Czech films. Members of American Film Academy and Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and other significant representatives of the film business are regularly…  Read more

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Shooting in 100% Humidity: Michelangelo Frammartino on Il Buco

Michelangelo Frammartino's Il BucoIl Buco

In 2007, Michelangelo Frammartino was scouting locations for Le Quattro Volte in Alessandria del Carretto, whose mayor took him to the Bifurto Abyss, one of the world’s deepest caves. That, along with a follow-up expedition in 2016, planted the seed for Il Buco, Frammartino’s third feature. In the time since, Frammartino has become an avid speleologist, and Il Buco is ostensibly a recreation of the initial exploration of Bifurto in 1961, at the outset of Italy's “economic miracle.” Frammartino juxtaposes it with the day-to-day life of an aging shepherd, giving the film an elegiac tone as it mixes pastoral myth and quasi-ethnography within the same dialogue-free form of “slow cinema” that characterized Le Quattro Volte. Like many of its aesthetic counterparts, Il…  Read more

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Top Gun: Maverick: What If Colin Powell Wasn’t Lying to the UN?

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: MaverickTom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

Held back even longer than No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick is the last major film repeatedly delayed by the pandemic to see release. In that time, it’s already taken on multiple unintended resonances, like the irony of this sequel to an uber-patriotic property getting denounced for appeasing communism by Ted Cruz. In December 2020, Cruz took to the Senate floor to denounce, among other films proving Hollywood’s unseemly deferral to China, Maverick. Referring—accurately in terms of enrollment rates—to the original as "maybe the greatest Navy recruiting film ever made,” he noted that the Taiwanese flag had been removed from the lead character’s jacket in the sequel’s trailer and fumed, "What does it say to the world when Maverick is…  Read more

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Visions du Réel 2022: Nuclear Power Plants and Lacanian Robots

Emilija Škarnulytė’s BurialBurial

With no conscious motivation, I was repeatedly drawn to films about Russia and the USSR's former satellite states while sifting through this year’s Visions du Réel. The most formidable, Emilija Škarnulytė’s Burial, visually maximalizes the inherently spectacular structures of nuclear power plants. A sparse clutch of title cards contextualize the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP)—built as an equally large sister to Chernobyl, its decommissioning and dismantling now a requirement for Lithuania’s entrance into the EU. The cavernous interiors slowly being broken down include, most captivatingly, a control room wall scanned in a three-minute, smoothly sustained right-to-left dolly, its nodes, buttons, meters and other constituent parts as pleasingly laid out as a Mondrian. The motion is hypnotic, while the soundtrack layers the ambiently…  Read more

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“I Definitely Tried to Shoot This Series Like a Six-Hour Movie”: Reinaldo Marcus Green on We Own This City

We Own This City

“An elite Baltimore police task force spent years plundering the city and its residents for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, and jewelry” is how a 2018 Vox article began its explainer of the disgraced Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) of the Baltimore Police Department. Nine officers took part in the multi-year scandal, with two detectives, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, being convicted for their crimes, while another four pled guilty alongside two sergeants and one officer. All remain currently imprisoned. The severity and expansiveness of the GTTF’s crimes documented in Baltimore Sun journalist Justin Fenton’s 2021 book, We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption, now adapted into a six-episode HBO miniseries from frequent…  Read more

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