The Imposter

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Hard Romanticker The streets of Tokyo are awash in blood and attitude in this tale of warring thugs battling for supremacy and revenge. An old woman is killed during a burglary, and her hoodlum grandson mistakenly believes Gu (Shota Matsuda) was behind the murder. Gu finds himself targeted, but he’s far too cool to run and instead finds time to cause some carnage of his own. This is a hard and brutal film that finds both cruelty and black humor in the lives of these punks. No one escapes unscathed, and women fare extremely poorly, but the film makes an effort to take the romance out of these junior yakuza’s lifestyles. Artsploitation Films is still a young label, but their third (and best) release continues to get everything right. In addition to the fantastic film they’ve included a booklet featuring two in depth essays on the film. Also, while this may only matter to nerdy collectors like myself, they’re also wisely numbering their releases on the spine a la Criterion and Drafthouse Films. [Extras: Trailer, collector’s booklet]

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The Best Documentaries of 2012

2012’s best documentaries understand people. It’s as simple as that. They include beautiful character portraits, from group pictures like Indie Game: The Movie and El Gusto to individual pieces like Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Marley. Even the most issue-oriented films achieved their strength through keeping things personal, building powerful political and social arguments through the lives of their subjects. They chronicle the lives of victims who are also heroes, filmmakers who are also subjects, and unique characters who end up representing us all.

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sorel_pi

When contemplating my favorite films of the year, I keep forgetting about Life of Pi. Yet very few narrative features wowed me as much as Ang Lee’s spectacular adaptation. Given how much I enjoyed it in the theater, the film should have stuck with me more than it has. I blame the ending, which traded the magnificent visuals and wondrous sea adventure for a talky bookend that too directly spelled out the point of the story within the story. I don’t know that I’d say the ending ruined the rest of the film for me. I could go back and re-watch the whole thing and still appreciate all the effects and thrills and drama that excited me the first time around. But if that’s the stuff I want to remember first and foremost, I’ll probably have to leave a few minutes early next time. Lee surely is familiar enough with the craft of storytelling to know that endings are extremely important, that they can make or break an audience’s satisfaction with a movie by being the part that it is left with. He would presumably disagree with me that Life of Pi has a weak ending. And at least the staff of Entertainment Weekly believes the film actually has one of the best endings of the year. And that is fine, because a lot of people hated the endings of Prometheus, The Bourne Legacy and Savages, and I think those movies have three of the best endings of 2012. The […]

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The Deep Blue Sea

Well, here we go. This was the first of many a week that will keep us on our toes with a number of different awards announcements, from the critics and other precursors to the narrowing of individual Oscar categories.  We got an interesting batch of awards from the National Board of Review and an equally independent-minded assortment from the New York Film Critics Circle. Put that together with the Academy short list for Best Documentary Feature, and it’s been quite the kick-off. And, as usual, not everyone was happy. It’s not awards season unless someone is out there shouting “snub!” Let’s start with the NYFCC and the handful of unexpected choices that they made in their very long, deliberate process. Rachel Weisz came seemingly out of nowhere to win Best Actress, quite the surprise to all but the most imaginative and intelligent pundits. What did this mean? Is there lack of excitement around other, more obvious contenders? Of course, it simply means that a lot of NYC critics saw The Deep Blue Sea and loved Weisz’s performance. Yet that’s not particularly exciting to delve into, especially if you didn’t like the film.

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Last week, filmmaker Joe Berlinger tweeted about a review of West of Memphis at DocGeeks in which the writer wrote, “I’ve never had the time or the energy to watch all 3 Paradise Lost films and, having seen West of Memphis, I’m glad I never bothered to.” As the co-director of the Paradise Lost trilogy, Berlinger had a right to be annoyed with that opening line and not just because West of Memphis probably wouldn’t exist without Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s coverage of the West Memphis 3 cases over the last 20 years. If there’s one thing we as film critics and/or fans should be good at it’s considering the distinction of individual works and the independent perspectives that go into their storytelling craft. With more and more documentaries being made it’s understandable that multiple films will tackle the same specific story. Sometimes they will seem like competitors, and sometimes, as in the case of this year’s two AIDS treatment docs, How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger, they’re actually linked through overlapping producers. Another new film, which just won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 DOC NYC documentary film festival and also recently received the Best Documentary Feature award at the Austin Film Festival, is one of the greatest examples of why it’s a wonderful thing that so many docs are being produced, even if some appear to be redundant on the surface. Titled Informant, this film tackles the exact same incident already covered by the […]

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Last night, at a special event in conjunction with the AFI FEST, the nominees for the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors were announced. And once again, the titles contending for the ten feature categories, all of which focus solely on nonfiction films (to make up for the Oscars’ minimal recognition), represent the year’s best in documentaries. As someone who professionally concentrates on docs elsewhere, I tend to feel kinda useless or redundant when Cinema Eye names its nominees, because now when someone asks me what’s great this year I can just point to their list of 31 features. Of course, some of these films are only up for specific honors, like those for original music score and graphic design, and may not be quite as necessary as the six up for the top award or the 10 nominated for the Audience Choice Prize (which sadly, for publicity-sake, lacks a Justin Bieber movie like last year). Also, I could name a bunch of exceptional docs that haven’t been recognized, such as This is Not a Film, The House I Live In, Under African Skies, Beware of Mr. Baker, Last Call at the Oasis, The Queen of Versailles, Girl Model (though its directors are up for Downeast) and The Invisible War. Still, I’m very excited that one of my top three nonfiction films of the year, The Imposter, is one of the most-nominated titles, while I’m even more ecstatic that the CEH could bring more attention to brilliant, lesser-known works like Only the […]

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One of the most difficult Oscar categories for pundits (let alone regular folk) to predict is the one for feature documentary. And this year more than ever it’s going to be hard to pick the five nominees, because changes to the rules of qualification and voting have given the race an extra element of complication: there is no precedent for how things turn out with this particular selection process in place. In a way, it’s a wide-open field with no certainty that higher-grossing films or more issue-oriented titles or discernibly cinematic works have the greater chance at a nod. Some expected the number of contenders to be cut in half as a result of the new rules; instead it grew, much to the chagrin of branch leader Michael Moore. And until the annual shortlist narrows them down to 15, we have 130 eligible films to choose from. But most of those docs aren’t plausible nominees. Many of the kind that Moore gets upset about for paying for a screen rental to qualify aren’t likely to go all the way. So they qualified. Now they have to be good and popular enough for people to notice.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly column dedicated to movie news and notes that is beginning to think that they Comic-Con hangover is in full-effect. It’s all Dark Knight out there. We begin this evening with a shot of Ben Wishaw in Skyfall as gadgetmaster Q, a photo that’s been out for a bit but somehow we missed covering it. It’s a very youthful take on Q, but one that will benefit from Wishaw’s chops, as seen in films like Layer Cake.

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The Imposter Movie 2012

Editor’s note: With The Imposter hitting limited theaters this week, here is a re-run of our SXSW review, originally published on March 13, 2012. Sometime around the halfway mark of Bart Layton‘s The Imposter, I became aware of the fact that I was watching the movie with my eyes wide as saucers. Even with a strong grasp of the film’s subject matter, it’s hard not to be totally blown away by what plays out on-screen, to become gape-mouthed in the face of so much (hyperbole aside) insanity. Much like Sundance favorite Compliance, the film focuses on the extreme limits of human fallibility and a true story that is so exceedingly unbelievable that it feels like it cannot possibly be true – but it is. In 1994, a thirteen-year-old boy named Nicholas Barclay disappeared while on his way home from playing with his friends in San Antonio, Texas. Three years later, a French con artist named Frédéric Bourdin placed a prank phone call to the police in a small Spanish town, claiming to be a man who had found an American child who had been abducted. When the police arrived, it was Frédéric Bourdin who huddled in the phone booth, clad in oversized clothing and a baseball cap pulled low. Bourdin was taken to an orphanage, where he went about constructing a lie so fantastic and revolting that only the most cunning of con artists and the most deviant of human beings would even consider it for a moment.

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What is Movie News After Dark? After inadvertantly taking the night off last night due to a surprise viewing of the extended cut of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (all 4 hours and 10 minutes, baby), it’s a nightly movie news and notes column and is just here to send you off to your weekend with a few fun reads. That’s exactly how many we’ve got tonight. A few. We begin the evening with a shot of a bald, robotically enhanced Matt Damon in a new shot from Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. For a movie being made with such a low profile, that sure is a big image. A Chem-rail gun (I don’t know what that is, but it sounds fun) and some exoskeletal goodness. Plus, Damon is looking quite militant. Here’s hoping we get more of this one at Comic-Con next week.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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The Imposter Movie 2012

Bart Layton‘s documentary The Imposter was warmly welcomed at SXSW (and other fests) for its icy shudder-inducing premise. It’s about…a person…but to describe that person would undercut the effectiveness of this insanely well-cut trailer. For now, know that it’s about a kidnapped boy, an emotionally demolished family, and a piece of miraculous news from across the Atlantic Ocean. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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