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  • The Disaster Artist

    The Disaster Artist

    ★★★

    "James Franco has been annoying a lot of people, myself included, for a variety of reasons, not least his relentless direction of a shocking number of movies, most quite poorly received: if I’m counting the credits on his IMDB page right, The Disaster Artist is his 16th feature since 2005 — not precisely Fred Olen Ray levels of shoddy productivity, but not that far off either. For easily his most mainstream effort (and, full disclosure, the only one I’ve seen),…

  • Lost Highway

    Lost Highway

    ★★★½

    The first time I saw Lost Highway was 2006 at BAM in downtown Brooklyn. I left the auditorium and everything seemed wrong: there was no one outside on an eerily deserted street on a Saturday afternoon. I walked to the subway to visit my friend in Manhattan and there was no one on the platform, just a loud, previously unnoticed hum from the lights. The train arrived and it was empty except for the blatantly mentally ill. Not until I…

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  • Magic Mike XXL

    Magic Mike XXL

    ★★★★

    Magic Mike XXL is a putatively "modest"/"small" film — $14.8 million budget, 28-day shooting schedule, a shambling road movie meant to showcase extended musical numbers and largely excising the first film's recessionary panic. (Business is discussed, specifically the hustle of running a small business, but it's not the dominant throughline motivating everything as in the first, a line of inquiry Soderbergh pursued in Erin Brockovich, Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience, in ways that increasingly played like a meta-text about his…

  • Frances Ha

    Frances Ha

    ★★★★

    This is the kind of movie that causes strongly polarized reactions based on each viewer's capacity to tolerate/recognize/empathize with those on-screen. Some people just can't handle watching 20-/30-something white people undergo minor crises within a basically privileged framework, which is understandable. (That said, I'm not sure why someone with that mindset would ever go watch ANY NOAH BAUMBACH MOVIE and ask afterwards — as some guy did — " if it had any sort of larger social context… besides only…