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  • The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

    The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

    ★★★

    55/100

    A.V. Club review. The part of the film to which the title refers is quite strong; were Dorfman not a close friend of Morris', I think he would have recognized that it's not enough to sustain an entire feature.

  • Fitzcarraldo

    Fitzcarraldo

    ★★★★

    76/100

    Dragging the ship over the mountain occupies a much smaller percentage of the film's running time than I'd remembered—an hour and a half elapses before Fitz even announces/explains the plan. Nor does Herzog make this remarkable feat of engineering as visually spectacular as it might have been in the hands of a stronger formalist. Doesn't really matter, though, as there's plenty of awe to be mined from ordinary, everyday laboriousness. It's easy to forget, but utterly crucial, that nothing…

  • The Wound

    The Wound

    ★★★

    59/100

    Toxic masculinity, South African style. With the irrelevant exception of some extras seen in the final minutes, not a single woman appears in the course of this power struggle, which unfolds during the rite of passage traditionally undergone by young Xhosa males—an extended group camping trip, more or less, that begins with circumcision (performed sans anesthetic or even much prelude, just a quick and dirty snip) and continues until the boyz ii men have fully healed. For most Western…

  • Law of the Border

    Law of the Border

    ★★½

    47/100

    According to Bilge Ebiri's Criterion essay, Güney originally wrote Law of the Border as a down-and-dirty genre piece, and that's how it works best (mostly in its second half, which very nearly goes full spaghetti Western). Akad's efforts to reshape an exploitation flick as sociopolitical tragedy, while no doubt representing a milestone in Turkish cinema history, are considerably less elegant. Everything's right on the surface, without the character depth that might compensate for the schematism; Ayse the teacher just…

  • In Transit

    In Transit

    ★★★

    56/100

    A.V. Club review. No less pleasantly forgettable than any long train ride, really. R.I.P. Albert.

  • The Beguiled

    The Beguiled

    ★★★

    58/100

    Second viewing, nearly 30 years after the first* (and a few days after seeing the remake). I still find the basic premise of Cullinan's novel offensive—yes, it's a man being objectified for once, but in the service of depicting women as sex-starved maniacs who'd barely seem out of place in Shock Corridor's infamous "Nymphos!" scene. Siegel's openly lascivious approach creates a layer of distance that helps a bit, though, and McBurney's hold over the school is complicated here by…

  • The Beguiled

    The Beguiled

    ★★

    39/100

    I remain The Unpersuaded re: Coppola, who here flattens a lurid, trashy melodrama about symbolic castration into Virgin Suicides II. Weirdly, she believes that she's inverted focus, like this is Grendel to Siegel's Beowulf:

    Anne Ross, my production designer, a couple of years ago told me, “You have to see The Beguiled. You need to make a new version of it or make a remake.” And I was like, “I would never remake a film.” But I saw it,…

  • 47 Meters Down

    47 Meters Down

    ★★½

    47/100

    A.V. Club review. Admirably realistic until suddenly it's utterly ridiculous.

  • The Book of Henry

    The Book of Henry

    ★★

    31/100

    Las Vegas Weekly review. Only got 200 words, so there wasn't space to detail what makes this such a fun bad movie; I particularly relished its expansive notion of Henry's genius, which e.g. posits that a gifted child will somehow just know how to read an MRI (and generally have amassed medical knowledge that doctors spend like 10 years learning, in his spare time, apparently out of idle curiosity). On the other hand, there really aren't any words that…

  • Limite

    Limite

    ★★★

    54/100

    Might have loved this had Peixoto gone fully abstract-experimental à la Man With a Movie Camera; as is, "Intermittently astonishing!" would be my pull quote. There are shots here so unusual and inventive that I'm not sure whether they really "work," even as I found them thrilling. Best example sees the camera circle a woman on a deserted country road, then follow her from behind as she walks away, then continue past her as she exits frame on the…

  • The Lost City of Z

    The Lost City of Z

    ★★★

    52/100

    Knew basically zilch about this going in—the book hadn't crossed my path, and I avoid reading anything at all about films I definitely plan to see. So I just assumed it to be an entirely original work, since that's all Gray had previously made (apart from Two Lovers being partially/vaguely inspired by Dostoyevsky, which I'd forgotten was even the case until I fact-checked this sentence). Sometime after Fawcett returns from his second expedition and resigns from the Royal Geographical…

  • Alien: Covenant

    Alien: Covenant

    ★★½

    44/100

    Doubles down on my Prometheus problem, which is that I just fundamentally don't give a shit about how xenomorphs originated. Especially not when the mythology seems increasingly geared toward folks who consider Ex Machina a masterpiece. (I do not.) Fassbender's having fun here, but he's surrounded by human characters who might as well be mannequins, which is tiresome even if one charitably assumes that's intentional/the point. Nor does this film boast a setpiece remotely as gripping as Prometheus' frantic…