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The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Capitalism Michael Moore

In our review for Fed Up, a documentary on the American obesity epidemic, I recommend that it be distributed free, at least to the poor. “Who wants to pay $10 or more to watch a bunch of talking heads make claims about how the food industry and government have made the problem even worse over the years?” I wondered. “This shouldn’t be the content of a theatrical release.” Now the film is on DVD and Blu-ray and through digital outlets, and we do think it’s worth seeing. But like many issue films of today, this is not a movie so much as it’s a necessary news report — the kind of thing that the networks would air to large audiences (albeit ones with much fewer choices in TV channels and other media options) in the ’60s and ’70s. Presumably, Michael Moore would agree with the stance on such a doc. He has long been arguing the case for more cinematic nonfiction films in theaters and on Oscar ballots. This week, while being honored at the Toronto International Film Festival with a 25th anniversary screening of Roger & Me, Moore spoke out on the need for docs to be more entertaining. The Guardian quotes him as saying, “People want to go home and have sex after your movie. Don’t make them feel ‘Urggggghhhh’.” In his speech, a keynote for the TIFF doc conference, he urged the filmmakers who are primarily lecturing viewers with their docs to quit the business and become teachers, because […]

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Super Movie

James Gunn made the movie that ruled the summer, which is really fucking weird. Not because he isn’t talented (because he is), but because his rise to prominence doesn’t make mathematical sense. The odds were astronomical. To think about it in the worst way possible, Lloyd Kaufman — the founder of Troma — is still hustling Troma films wherever he can while his Tromatic protege has the #1 movie of the year. He’s a bona fide mainstream success who got his start rewriting Shakespeare so that Juliet becomes a monster with a giant dick. Now, the world has officially gotten his dick message. But to try to nail down Gunn’s style is impossible. Beyond the genre fuckery of Troma which has proven itself to be a borrowed language, Gunn has also written and/or directed stripped-down horror, a surprisingly family friendly series where a talking dog solves mysteries and a hero satire that’s far smarter and more earnest than Kick-Ass. Gunn has a fantastically twisted sense of humor, but instead of toiling in obscurity or b-level experimentalism, he’s making blockbusters that millions of people love. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who learned everything from the Toxic Avenger.

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Bill Murray Lost in Translation

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom

Will we eventually see Shia LeBeouf return to the Transformers movies? Could there ever be a Speed 3 starring Keanu Reeves? These are things I wondered when I saw that Orlando Bloom is talking about returning to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Let’s just go there and say he’d be crawling back, seeing as his career hasn’t been too hot since he left that series after the third installment (isn’t it enough that he was allowed back to Middle Earth for the Hobbit movies?). Among other reasons the fifth POTC will probably stink, its allowance for “Will Turner” to reenter the picture is a big one. This sort of thing looks bad for both the actor and the production, though it’s hard to tell which comes off more desperate. Probably Bloom, since I doubt anybody really cares if he’s involved. Turner’s story arc was fairly complete by the end of At World’s End (there is apparently some fan debate regarding this, but never mind all that). And it’s rather neat and clean the way those first three movies form a trilogy. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp is seemingly bound to the franchise through some devilish deal with Disney, and if that must be true than it’d be better to see him have to work with new characters in their own stories, whether they’re one-offs like On Stranger Tides or a new three-part adventure. Of course, Captain Jack Sparrow’s charms wear thin with each installment, too, and if POTC must sail on, the […]

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Joan Rivers

When Joan Rivers died last week, a common refrain resounded throughout the movie sphere of Twitter: “Watch Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” It was good advice. Anyone who wants to understand her importance as a media figure, or just as a person, would do well to check out that documentary. And after seeing it, you might have a hankering to check out more docs about entertainers who are devoted to making people laugh. Here are ten, including the Rivers film, to catch up with: Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2002) and Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013) The Broadway legend kept working right up until her death earlier this year. At Liberty is Elaine Stritch in her own words, a filmed version of her acclaimed one-woman show. She won an Emmy for her riotous recounting of her life and work, a two-hour cavalcade of memories shot by a team of directors led by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. Shoot Me is Stritch as viewed through someone else’s lens. While the actress and singer is still on point with her defiant rambunctiousness, director Chiemi Karasawa delivers a more raw, vulnerable side of her. Footage of Stritch without makeup, lying in bed due to sickliness, are the sort of thing that you don’t get from a performer just talking about it on stage. It’s a funny but moving look at reflection in old age while still pursuing what one loves. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Man Short Film

Why Watch? This short film from Richard Hughes is sweat and gristle. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a fist. Yet like most outstanding explorations of manhood, Man proves the power and pure muscle are not enough to make you whole. It focuses on a middle-aged sheep shearer who’s one bad afternoon away from being sent to pasture. He takes a young kid under his wing, trying to teach him to stay on the right path, but the young troublemaker has the unfortunate solution to the old man’s problem in a tiny plastic bag. Man is aggressive and unrelenting — with evocative shots that place us firmly in the dirt and heat of the barn to a storming performance from a feral Shane Connor as the old man. He growls his way through a forced paternal role, anchored by strident frustration and a too big piece of himself that wants to do the right thing. There’s a strong parallel here to the Oscar nominated Bullhead, both for its subject matter, its tragic sense of fading dominion and its exhausting intensity. This is one hell of a fantastic short film.

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Poltergeist

Everyone’s heard of movies that are cursed. One terrible event after another happens on set, things go horribly wrong, the movie goes way over budget. Sometimes, people even die. But it’s not a curse, it’s just bad luck. Right? Well, sometimes there’s just one little detail that elevates movie curses from “Oh, that sucks” to “Please, hand me the fucking holy water.”

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Breathless Movie

The legacy of the French New Wave looms large over modern film history, yet its legacy is decidedly messy, one that refuses to fit comfortably within one stable tradition or definition. The movement became popular alongside the rise of European art cinema during the late 1950s and early 1960s, yet many of its films preferred playfully anarchistic pastiche over a reverent approach to cinematic modernism. Unlike other European postwar filmmaking traditions, the French New Wave both loved and hated Hollywood filmmaking, with its members ranging from the political dissidence of Jean-Luc Godard’s work after 1965 to the cheeky MGM-invoking festivals of radiance that were Jacques Demy’s 1960s musicals. And there were as many, if not more, consequential French filmmakers only tangentially associated with the New Wave as there were decidedly within it, with Alain Resnais and Louis Malle’s late 1950s work often awkwardly placed as its inciting texts. The French New Wave was a school without formal rules, without clear qualifications for induction, and without an interest in legibly framing its own legacy – its criteria required seemingly little else than a distinct expression of difference from what’s come before. But beyond the intellectual and artistic changes the French New Wave brought upon the greater cinematic landscape, no contribution of the movement is more apparent than the term New Wave itself, a term that both reinforces and confuses the French New Wave’s legacy each time it’s applied. And while “New Wave” might be a useful shorthand for recognizing significant shifts in filmmaking style […]

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CA WINTER SOLDIER discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Captain America: The Winter Soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to fit in to the modern world while working for SHIELD on a regular basis. His latest mission leads to yet another conflict with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) over his and SHIELD’s priorities and methods in fighting the war on terror. Rogers thinks criminals should be punished after a crime has been committed, but Fury says they can’t afford to wait that long. The arrival on scene of a mysterious and legendary assassin, the Winter Soldier, shakes things up even further, and soon Captain America is fighting not only for the lives of millions but for his past, his integrity, and every core belief he holds dear. I usually reserve the “Pick of the Week” spot for a great title in need of more press, but hot damn do I love this flick. If you’ve followed my reviews here over the years you know I’m no easy mark for Marvel or other big movies, but there’s not a dull minute to be found here between the expertly crafted action sequences, plot revelations lifted equally out of the comic books and the New York Times, character moments and legitimately funny laughs. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is big, spectacular entertainment that manages to stay grounded even as the action turns to explosive spectacle. It’s the kind of summer […]

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Death to Smoochy

Comedy is probably the most taste-variable of film genres, and never was that fact thrown more sharply into focus than when folks were listing their favorite Robin Williams movies in the wake of his untimely death. So many different titles to choose from! Turns out, Cargill and I share an abiding affinity for one of Williams’ most maligned films: Death to Smoochy. Now that some time has passed, we felt it appropriate to honor the great Robin Williams by delving into all the things we love about this darkly absurd oddity. We also examine the roots of the film’s ice cold reception and the slowly pervading cult appreciation it has since garnered. We can’t necessarily change your mind about Death to Smoochy, but maybe we can make a dent. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #23 Directly

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Steve Buscemi in A Good Job

If last night’s season premiere of Boardwalk Empire wasn’t enough Steve Buscemi for you, HBO is bringing the actor back during prime time tonight with a documentary called A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY. It’s an hour-long film that he produced and appears in, mainly interviewing New York firefighters and reminiscing with them about his own days with Engine Co. 55 in Manhattan in the 1980s. There are plenty of photos of the scrawny young man before he became one of his generation’s finest character actors. There’s also footage of him helping out after 9/11 and again after Hurricane Sandy. But A Good Job isn’t about Buscemi, even if he seems to be too much of a focus in the beginning. He has to be, because otherwise the only people who’d watch the film, which is directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus (The Farm: Angola, USA) and also has actor Stanley Tucci as a producer, are fellow firefighters and their families. Not that there aren’t enough in that community nationwide to give HBO decent ratings. But it is primarily men and women just talking about the job, why they went into it and what it’s like to have this other family. They do also talk about many of the city’s worst tragedies for firefighters — not necessarily the biggest fires but the ones with the most casualties.

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Game Night Short Film

Why Watch? This short film from Noah Blodgett and Jacob LaMountain defies most of the common sense ways to grab attention online. It doesn’t start off with a big dramatic scene, it isn’t sci-fi with homegrown CGI, and it doesn’t attempt to overwhelm your senses. It’s also non-narrative, focusing on two young men (played by the writer/directors) meeting up for an all-night sparring session for which we’re never told the rules of the game. Instead, it works by engaging raw, primal curiosity and doing a lot with a little. It’s not the slickest no-budget production out there, but it at least does $5,000’s worth with $50. Part of that is due to clever moves like using an RV’s windows to act as a natural split screen, and part of it is due to finding strangeness in simplicity. The best example of that is their twist on Rock-Paper-Scissors. The entirety of Game Night is like watching Calvinball. Are there rules? If not, why do these kids get together every night to chug colored water and destroy playing cards? Why are they keeping score (and how much is “red” worth)? The short casually waves as gnawing questions float by –undoubtedly out of experimental necessity. However, there’s also a practical reason: in a story universe featuring two guys getting together to play a unique game that’s old hat for them, how could you possibly exposition-dump an explanation? Yes, there are amateur elements, and yes, many will walk away from this frustrated beyond belief, but this short film […]

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Warner Bros.

I don’t know what your movie news feed looks like, but mine tends to be painfully predictable. Over the past few months, with rare exception, it’s pretty much been a non-stop barrage of Star Wars, DC, and Marvel updates. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good franchise. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and am eagerly awaiting the release of Episode VII. Likewise, I love me some Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be first in line to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. I’m still a bit cautious about Batman vs. Superman: Courtroom Drama and the upcoming Justice League slate of films, but that’s a whole ‘nother article. A friend of mine recently echoed the ridiculously common complaint that Hollywood has lost its creative edge and is no longer making original movies. Instead, it’s obsessed about remakes, reboots, sequels, and other adaptations of previous source material. My knee-jerk cynicism aside, he seems to have a point. Sure, there are some interesting original films that show up now and then, but the studios seem to be focused greatly on retreading the past. This got me thinking: Can’t we go back to the good old days when Hollywood wasn’t all about remakes, reboots, sequels, and franchises?

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Clouds of Sils Maria

The word coming out of TIFF about Kristen Stewart’s performance in Clouds of Sils Maria mirrors the word that came out of earlier festival runs. It boils down to, “Surprise! She’s an actress!,” but Sam said it a bit more eloquently in his review: “Stewart is magnetic, devoid of the amateurish affectations that have plagued her in the past (the nail and lip biting, the hair twirling). In Clouds she’s sexy, confident and articulate, with oversized rims and enough vulnerability to draw you in.” For her fans, this has to be both a No Shit, Sherlock moment and a vindication of sorts. Here’s the child star from Panic Room (who David Fincher must have seen something in) proving that her persistence in the industry isn’t a fluke. For the skeptical, it may signal a maturation — the next step in talent evolution for a promising figure who hadn’t yet lived up to any great promise. It doesn’t really matter which it is because it depends solely on where you’re standing. The prevailing narrative is that she’s finally emerging from a cold winter although she’s been experimenting with different roles at least since Adventureland. Maybe she needed to get out of the shade of Twilight, or maybe the right blend of story and power hadn’t happened with On the Road or Welcome to the Rileys, but regardless of the hypothesis, the main point is that she’s the next actor in line for reconsideration.

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Northern Exposure

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Netflix

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Young Einstein

This weekend, Paramount Pictures re-released their 1994 Best Picture winner, Forrest Gump, on IMAX screens. It wasn’t a huge deal, hitting far fewer theaters than the Ghostbusters re-release also going on right now, and only took in an extra $405k to add to its $678m worldwide gross of 20 years ago. Maybe you went to see it on the giant screen for the first time. Or maybe you skipped this return to theaters because you’ve seen in a billion times already. Forrest Gump was, after all, the highest-grossing of its year, is one of the top 25 highest-grossing movies of all time when accounting for inflation and has gone gone on to be one of the most iconic and quotable of the past few decades, inspiring plenty of parodies and recently being selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Not bad for a movie that only seemed to be a groundbreaking work of drama and special effects. Of course, it also distinguishes itself with epic storytelling, much of it based in nostalgia, and a lovable performance from Tom Hanks. Hopefully it has influenced fans to seek out the actual histories and precursors, but if not I have a list of recommendations of at least the movies that came before as well as some of the TV appearances and archival clips that Forrest was digitally inserted into for some retconned events from the past. I’ve chosen not to include similar movies that have come out since the […]

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Doctor Who Doctor of Sherwood

When I first got into Doctor Who (only a few years ago), part of the appeal for me was that it had a kind of Quantum Leap deal as far as the main character’s control of where he’d wind up in many episodes. He would try to go to one place and time, but he and his companion would land in another, as if the Tardis was taking them somewhere and somewhen more important to put right what once went wrong. It’s not as fun when, say, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) gets to pick a destination and they actually get there. But this week’s installment, “Robot of Sherwood,” worked for me anyway because of a new twist on the idea. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) doesn’t expect to land where/when they do because he thinks it isn’t real. Or at least he doesn’t think the real place and time is populated by such folklore characters as Robin Hood (Tom Riley), Little John (Rusty Goffe) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller). 

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I Didnt See It Coming Video

Stuart Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter of Belle and Sebastian, has directed a movie. It is called God Help the Girl, it stars Emily Browning, and it opens this weekend. It’s obliquely autobiographical in a sense, its protagonist a spiritual stand-in for the musician. It is also not animated. In fact, there isn’t all that much animation tied to the work of Belle and Sebastian in general. The Scottish indie pop group has mostly stuck with narrative-minded live-action videos over the course of their career. There isn’t even a French cartoon based on the children’s book from which the band took their name, “Belle et Sébastien,” though there is a Japanese anime series from the early 1980s. All 52 episodes are on YouTube. However, that sort of tenuous excuse to watch a cartoon won’t be necessary this week. Belle and Sebastian have actually made two animated music videos, both of them sitting along the edge of their discography. “I Didn’t See It Coming” was released in the summer of 2011, “Crash” in the spring of 2012. Yet while these are rare, and also rather late examples of their work attached to video (the group’s first studio album, for context, was released in 1996), there’s an odd sort of continuity. Many of their singles over the years have been accompanied by videos with a very fluid yet contained sensibility, from the Richard Lester homage of 2001’s “Jonathan David” to the bizarre office space of 2003’s “Step Into My Office Baby.” These two more recent adventures are no different.

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