Spring 2014

You Have To Laugh

The first words of Obvious Child are heard over black. Effervescent stand-up comedian Donna Stern (the pitch-perfect Jenny Slate) appears in flashes, lording over her audience as she addresses the myth of clean underwear in graphic detail. If it wasn’t already apparent from the mere premise of her Sundance breakout, director Gillian Robespierre knows how to make a first impression. A romantic comedy that upends all that the genre holds dear, Obvious Child, based on Robespierre’s 2009 short, is an irreverent, hilarious and touching examination of a woman’s brash misstep and her hesitant navigation through its domino-like ramifications. Impregnated during […]

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Features

In Sorrow and Anger

Zack Parker’s immaculately twisty and disturbing Proxy is set in the filmmaker’s hometown of Richmond, Ind., where Parker has lived, worked and cultivated a base of crew, performers and investors for most of his adult life. It’s a film that stays with you even as it feels both familiar and remote. At once homespun and remarkably deft, it demonstrates an ambitious director who, in a place without obvious networks of filmmaking support, has figured out how to make remarkably accomplished work for peanuts in that now much sought-after “elevated genre” space. A scene of shocking brutality opens Parker’s fourth feature. […]

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  • The Power of the Purse

    At their fourth floor office in Gowanus, Brooklyn, directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin are preparing for the release of their second documentary feature, Citizen Koch. Outside their window is the neighborhood’s famous polluted canal but also a new Whole Foods that wasn’t there just one year ago. Gowanus, with its Superfund cleanup site, is a “neighborhood in transition,” but one that urban planners and TEDx speakers hope will be gentrification done right, retaining artists, artisans and small businesses amidst the fancy restaurants and incoming homeowners. A recent New York Times profile said Gowanus “seems poised to exist as an […]

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  • The New Americans

    I have found myself disconcerted in writing about James Gray’s The Immigrant. I was immediately moved by the film and couldn’t fail to appreciate its elegantly controlled cinematic style, but I also felt there was something elusive and hard-to-pin-down about the many levels on which it attempts to address the audience. The film is consistently surprising in how traditional it is in some ways, how unabashed it is in its tenderness toward its characters, the milieu and historical period. Yet the film never succumbs to the twin dangers of stereotypical downbeatness or sugar-coated wish-fulfillment; it has an unusually complex level […]

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  • Phantom Rides

    Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s mesmerizing Manakamana is the kind of film that pushes us to confront the basic reasons we go to the cinema in the first place — and what compels us to stay and stare at a screen for two hours. Most of us go to be transported in one way or another; Spray and Velez’s film certainly delivers in this respect, both literally and figuratively. Set entirely within a cable car floating above the Nepali jungle, the camera trained on visitors journeying to a mountaintop temple, the film never stops moving. It’s an action movie about […]

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