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  • Classical Period

    Classical Period

    ★★★★

    On one level, this movie is the simplest thing you've ever heard of: a handful of nerds spend 62 minutes talking about books. As with Fendt's previous feature, it seems amateurish on the surface: there are a couple slow pans, but mostly it's still camera placements in direct light. At one point, Fendt shoots a guy with a window in the background so that the outside sky seems blown-out: a big cinematography no-no. There's one very long shot of a…

  • Vincent & Theo

    Vincent & Theo

    ★★★★

    A very un-Altmanesque Altman film, it felt like a well-made Masterpiece Theater movie. It follows the Minelli film almost scene-by-scene, but feels as if it's merely translated the emotional tenor to a contemporary audience (always the lamest choice for an adaptation or remake). Not surprisingly, I much prefer Kirk Douglas's melodramatic histrionics and Minnelli's painterly mise-en-scene and 3 1/2-minute takes to this, which surprised me, since I'm a huge Altmanian.

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  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

    ★★★★

    I just finished teaching a class on the contemporary international art cinema and I was struck how closely my students' ratings of the films that we watched tracked the movies' IMDb ratings. And I was struck how stridently -- perhaps unthinkingly -- my own tastes seemed to have veered in the opposite direction. For instance, my students' favorite film (and the most highly rated on IMDb (8.4) of those I included) was Asghar Farhadi's A SEPARATION; my students' least favorite…

  • I Accuse

    I Accuse

    ★★★★

    It's funny that so much of the dominant discourse about silent cinema these days is about "modernity" -- every new academic book about silent film recently feels obligated to link movies from the 1920s to the railroad, the telegraph, advertising, the consumer economy, etc. -- as if the use of the root "modern" will somehow legitimate the films for an audience that might not appreciate them if it thought of them as merely melodramatic entertainments. But my experience with silent…