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  • Snowden

    Snowden

    At moments this was precisely the silly cyberespionage thriller I had wanted it to be: beefed up hacking scenes augmented with techno music, a sex scene in which a computer FaceTime camera plays voyeur, and an NSA outpost in Hawaii that resembles a villain’s tropical bombshelter hideout in some Bond movie. Then it descends into straight-up hagiography and becomes no fun whatsoever.

  • Viva

    Viva

    ★★★★

    Despite her multitude of creative credits writer/director/actor/songwriter/art director Anna Biller doesn't specialize in writing or direction or acting in as much as she does in a campy midcentury vernacular. Note how every song (I think there are four) is overdubbed without any pretense of authenticity, but that something so seemingly incidental as drapes has been meticulously thought out. (Really, every indoor scene depicts a room or two with really impressive drapes in it.) She seems to be finding her footing…

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  • The Big Short

    The Big Short

    ★★★★

    The film’s regular fourth wall transgressions that intend to demystify credit bubbles and CDOs or whatever else didn’t quite clarify exactly what’s going on for me, but nevertheless this is a film that’s transparently cognizant of the viewer’s level of interest, checking in every now in then in case one of us is nodding off. It’s this tactic that I really admire, and a film that purposefully solicits participation because McKay & Co. intend to educate under the guise of entertainment,…

  • They Live

    They Live

    ★★★★★

    They Live is at times totally absurd (the bubblegum line, for example, which I’ve never thought was all that funny), but its central revelation is masterful, melding the film’s political satire with its good old-fashioned alien invasion narrative. You laugh when those cartoonish bug-eyed aliens pronounce their capitalistic agenda – think about that; in what other movies do aliens want to harvest Mother Earth's monetary instead of horticultural resources? – but behind the ridiculous one-liners and the shootouts and the spectacularly elongated fight scene is a genuine frustration. I wish more movies ballasted such absurdity with sincerity.