Tag Archive: Drama

“…only things that are creative and not destructive… hatred is wasted energy.”

The secret of happiness and purpose endures as our highest aspiration. From its science and psychologyto its geography to its empirical application, we go after it with ceaseless zeal.

In this brilliantly wise and articulate short excerpt from an archival interview, the great Alfred Hitchcock shares his definition of happiness — a definition that makes my own heart sing, and harks back to this morning’s meditation on kindness and the lack thereof. Read more here: http://bit.ly/157pAas

A clear horizon — nothing to worry about on your plate, only things that are creative and not destructive… I can’t bear quarreling, I can’t bear feelings between people — I think hatred is wasted energy, and it’s all non-productive. I’m very sensitive — a sharp word, said by a person, say, who has a temper, if they’re close to me, hurts me for days. I know we’re only human, we do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions, but when all these are removed and you can look forward and the road is clear ahead, and now you’re going to create something — I think that’s as happy as I’ll ever want to be.”

Beautifully said, with a blend of personal vulnerability and firm conviction worthy of profound respect.

SXSW Danny Boyle

So far one of the highlights of SXSW was the panel featuring director Danny Boyle. The enthusiasm he shared with Jack Giroux from filmschoolrejects.com about the event was evident during his Q&A. Even when the nifty “Danny Boyle’s Filmography” montage Fox Searchlight cut together was playing we saw Boyle dancing to it. He was happy to be there, and so were we.

While the Slumdog Millionaire director was there to promote Trance, Boyle discussed many of his films, and the lessons he learned from them. Unfortunately he didn’t have time to reminisce about all his movies, but what the director of Trance did talk about was noteworthy. Read more here:  http://bit.ly/Y7DUbk

That’s why we took notes:

Become a Great Filmmaker By Showing Interest in Priesthood 

“There are similarities [between a director and a priest]. There’s directing in priesthood and pouncing around. There are a number of directors who were going to be priests, like, Martin Scorsese and John Woo. Confessing your sins with movies is nice. You go to these dark places and access your darker side.”

Study Actors

“Theater is a much easier place to access, and you learn skills there. I learned how to deal with actors and the secrets. In the new film, TranceRosario Dawson says, ’5% of the population is extremely suggestible.’ They use techniques to find the 5%, and they’re often actors who want to change and do things that change them. I think you get that with an actor: wanting to experience something as an actor and as a storyteller. You have to trust your actor be a storyteller. Most people go to the cinema to see the actors.”

Your First Movie Has a Magic You Might Not Get Back

“Yeah, I think there’s something wonderful about your first time. Film is so technical. There’s so many elements that are manipulative, which you construct specifically to produce an effect. There’s a worry you’ll lose the innocence of your first try.

Lie to Financiers and Win an Oscar 

“There’s a perversity in there that’s delicious. We used Slumdog‘s impact to make a film we wanted to make. Nobody was going to make [127 Hours] because it’s a guy alone for six days and cuts his arm off. You lie to them, ‘Yeah, it’s an action movie with one guy!’. [For Slumdog] We didn’t tell them a third of it was going to be in Hindi. Sure, some kids get their eyes taken out, but it’s like Amelie crossed with Trainspotting! You’ll say anything to get your film made.

“Too MTV” Isn’t a Bad Thing 

“I was watching The Big Chill on the way over here, and those were bold choices. The Doors and Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now…I mean this whole realistic world is now being shown through this prism. When we started with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting we did that, but we were attacked as being ‘too MTV.’ They said they were like music videos. I thought it was a compliment at the time. People are living their life like that. I see my life like pop music, singing to myself and seeing it here and there.”

The Power of Music

“My coming of age was puck. In 1978 I was 20, and that was an amazing time for me. 15 years later there was rave culture in Britian, and I was just about old enough to go enjoy that. I was 35, around when I started making films. Although the book [“Trainspotting”] is about drugs, the film is about dance culture. We did that unapolgetically. We wanted to make a drug movie you could watch, since most are so depressing. Maybe someone does heroin, throws up, and sits in a corner for 10 hours, but that’s not cinematic. The drug does destroy people in the film, but the rhythm of the film can be expressed with a different tempo. That’s why the music in Trainspotting…there’s a hidden path from pop to electronic down music and then to Brit pop.”

Movies Should Assault

“I love energy in movies. I want my films to mesmerize people. I used to get that with Nic Roeg films, where I’m pinned by the characters and there’s no oxygen…I want the rabbit in the headlights. We don’t go to a dark room to discuss a film, but feel it and experience it. If it’s a dumb action movie, you may not want to. Depends on the context. When you’ve paid 12 dollars, I want you to be assaulted by the film. I want the film to assault you.”

A Few Other Tidbits From Boyle

  • “In the films we make, we try to change genre so you don’t go in, ‘I know how to do this.’ I’ve done that before, and it’s not good for you. You should try to work it out.”
  • “The risk taking you shouldn’t do is what you should do, but you should cover your back. Those risks make your films standout.”
  • “I was never a fan of zombie movies. I never thought we were making one [with 28 Days Later], but that’s what everyone calls it. It’s gone on to kick off a renewal of interest, including a TV show we have no rights for.”
  • “When I go to a movie I’m happy to let myself be changed by the experience.”
  • “I have a terrible temper. There were a few moments on The Olympics where I was vile, which was surprising. In a huge, corporate thing like that, you have to defend your patch.”
  • When it came to turning down knighthood, Boyle said, “Just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. I have no interest in that.”
The Lords of Salem Logo

“From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood. The Lords of Salem tells the tale of Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio station DJ living in Salem, Massachusetts, who receives a strange wooden box containing a record, a “gift from the Lords.” Heidi listens, and the bizarre sounds within the grooves immediately trigger flashbacks of the town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the “Lords of Salem” returning for revenge on modern-day Salem?”

The Lords of Salem will be in theaters April 15, 2013.

Watch the trailer here: http://t.co/WKTnsFNV

all content courtesy of best-horror-movies.com

Well, for those not looking to be stuck alone at home watching a marathon of Sleepless in Seattle on TNT, here’s Mark Rozeman’s list for you taken from pastemagazine.com It compiles the films perfectly designed for those disillusioned or made bitter by love’s hurtful sting.

13. The Break-Up (2006)
At the time of its release, The Break-Up appeared to draw more attention for the burgeoning relationship between co-stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston than for its actual quality. Certainly, the trailer did little to assure moviegoers that the film would be anything but a goofy romp in which Vaughn’s and Anniston’s characters pull increasingly wacky pranks on each other in order to seize control of their impressive Chicago condo.

12. Ruby Sparks (2012)
In his review for the much-maligned Cameron Crowe project ElizabethtownAV Club writer Nathan Rabin coined the now ubiquitous phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Writing about the film’s female lead (played by Kirsten Dunst), Rabin highlighted the archetype of the lively, quirky girl who becomes a shot in the arm to her dour and/or depressed male lead. Written by and co-starring Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks seems to have been created specifically as a reaction to this type of character.

11. In the Realm of the Senses (1976) 
Read the true story that this Criterion-approved Japanese-French film based its plotline on and you’ll have an idea why it would make for the worst kind of Valentine’s Day viewing. Directed by the late Nagisa Oshima, the film revolves around the perverse relationship between a hotel maid and the employer who molests her. This tryst leads to an intense, long-term sexual affair where the two indulge in every kind of experimentation you can imagine.

10. The War of the Roses (1989)
Never has the phrase “love is a battlefield” been taken more literally than in Danny Devito’s sophomore directorial outing. An acerbic black comedy based on a 1981 novel of the same name, The War of the Roses stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as a well-to-do couple whose crumbling marriage becomes a launching pad for a vicious, no-holds-barred war for control of their home and possessions.

9. Bad Timing (1980)
It’s a story of obsession and domination. Slammed by many at the time of its release, one official from the film’s U.K. distribution company famously dubbed it “a sick film made by sick people for sick people.” Nevertheless, it’s reputation has grown in recent years, culminating in a Criterion Collection release. Still, this toxic romance remains a brutal, disconcerting narrative to sit through. You’ll certainly not be able to shake certain images of Art Garfunkel after it’s all over.

8. (500) Days of Summer (2009) 
“This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should known in advance, this is not a love story,” intones the voiceover at the start of this bittersweet romantic comedy. True to those words, what unfolds is not quite the light, sunshine-y narrative indicated by the film’s vibrant color spectrum. Subverting notions of the typical rom-com, Summer acknowledges the all-too-true notion that sometimes, without definite rhythm or reason, a relationship can just not work out—no matter how badly you want it to.

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7. Sleepwalk with Me (2012)
Mike Birbiglia’s directorial debut is a Portrait of the Comedian as an Awkward Stand Up. Throughout the film, we witness Birbiglia’s dramatic surrogate, Matt Pandamiglio, slowly transition from telling stiff, half-baked jokes to weaving insightful and humorous anecdotes based on his life and relationships.

6. Closer (2004)
Directed by the legendary Mike Nichols, this adaptation of Patrick Marber’s award-winning play of the same name is a scathing, cynical sneer at modern-day relationships, starring a quartet of some of the most hateful, insensitive characters ever put to film. Needless to say infidelities, broken trust and shattered promises abound. Natalie Portman earned her first Oscar nomination as perhaps the most innocent and naïve of the four (who just happens to be a stripper). Clive Owen, however, shines as the crass, boorish dentist prone to proclaiming whatever pops into his sick mind (he’s also probably the most honest one in the group). A venomous Valentine if there ever was one, Closer remains one of the worst first-date movies ever made.

5. Husbands & Wives (1992)
As with several entries on this list, Woody Allen’s 1992 domestic drama was overshadowed by behind-the-scenes drama. Prior to the film’s release, Allen’s relationship with longtime partner (and co-star) Mia Farrow went up in smoke after it was revealed that he’d been engaging in a sexual affair with her 19-year-old adopted daughter. With this news still fresh in the tabloids, the narrative, which displays marital discord in all its ugly glory, inevitably invited real-life parallels. Allen’s use of handheld, documentary-like camerawork only serves to highlight the bleakness and harsh reality of the situation. While films such as Annie Hall and Manhattan will always stand as major career apexes in Allen’s career, Husbands & Wivesserves as an underrated masterpiece in his lengthy filmography.

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4. Brief Encounter (1945)
For most, the name David Lean evokes images of sprawling, three-plus hour epic masterpieces such asLawrence of Arabia or The Bridge Over River Kwai. Yet perhaps one of the British’s director’s most powerful outings is a small-scale movie about a doomed relationship that barely clocks in under 90 minutes. Celia Johnson stars as a bored British housewife who finds herself drawn to a married doctor that she meets at a train station. Over the course of several weeks, the two soon realize their relationship and attraction to each other is far from innocuous. Based on a one-act play by Noël Coward, Brief Encounterpaints a dreary look at traditional British marriages and examines the depressing concept of knowing that the one you truly love might have been yours under different circumstances.

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3. Scenes from a Marriage (1973)
No one does angst-ridden relationship dramas quite like Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman. This one is no exception. Made on a shoestring budget and featuring Bergman’s trademark penchant for claustrophobic close-ups and long, soul-baring monologues, the original Swedish TV miniseries ran almost five hours in length. Released as a three-hour cut in U.S. cinemas, the film still proved to be a gut-wrenching examination of a failed marriage. Funny enough, the film becomes notorious in its home country when, in the wake of its release, there was a rapid spike in Scandinavian divorce rates.

2. Blue Valentine (2011)
Blue Valentine is actually two movies. In one, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are two lost souls who find solace in each other’s company. Cindy has emotional baggage stemming from familial trauma whereas Dean is the charming free spirit ready to make the pain go away. When Cindy finds herself pregnant, Dean becomes her emotional support and the two eventually decide to marry. This tale of young love is juxtaposed sharply against the future versions of Dean and Cindy—aged, tired and weary beings who are mere shells of their former exuberant selves. The child, which originally drove them together, now appears to be the last remaining link in their deteriorating relationship. Though one can easily find signs of impending disaster in the early scenes, it does not make watching the slow but inevitable collapse of their marriage any less traumatizing.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Yes, yes, between landing a high spot on Paste’s Top 50 Films of the Decade list as well as one onThe 50 Movies on Netflix Instant list, it seems like there should be some kind of penalty box reserved for Eternal Sunshine. To that I say — can’t fault a masterpiece for being too good.

Unlike other entries in the list, Eternal Sunshine begins with the signature couple already broken up and heart broken. Desperate to rid himself of the memories of the break-up (and, by extension, the pain), Joel enlists a company that specializes in wiping away such memories. Of course, in the middle of the procedure, Joel realizes that some memories are worth holding onto, regardless of the hurt. Though much of the film has Joel and Clementine yearning for each other in their own ways, it’s the story’s conclusion that potential turns this cerebral romantic dramedy into a cosmic tragedy.

While we, as viewers, want more than anything for the oddball coupling of Jim Carrey’s reserved Joel and Kate Winslet’s vivacious Clementine to work itself out, the fact remains that we’ve seen that the two are woefully incompatible in the long run. Thus, though the end leaves the couple with the optimistic hope that they can turn their situation around, the film’s final shoot appears to tell a different story. As credits roll, we see Joel and Clementine frolicking around in the snow. Then the images is repeated again. And again. And again. While director Michel Gondry has stated that he had no grand intention, the repetition of the shot carries an unmistakable implication: Joel and Clementine are trapped in a Sisyphean cycle wherein they break up, wipe their minds then repeat the same process over and over again. Writer Charlie Kaufman’s original draft, which shows an elder Joel and Clementine meeting each other “for the first time” once again, leads some credence to the argument. Whatever the real story, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has safely secured itself as a modern day classic, even if it’s not the cheeriest movie for a romantic movie-night. Read more here: http://bit.ly/XBGk4C


As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.


Ed Gass-Donnelly


–image from screencrush.com words from imdb.com

Top 20 Documentaries of 2012

It was quite the unusual year for documentaries. One director made our list twice, with a movie about pop music and a movie about child murder. Possibly reflecting an emerging trend, five of our top 20 docs were made by co-directing teams. Last year’s Academy Award winner Undefeated and nominee Paradise Lost 3saw mainstream release in 2012. Former Academy Award winners and nominees brought us strong, solid offerings—Amy Berg’s West of Memphis, Kevin Macdonald’s Marley, Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa—but still didn’t top our list. That’s because, most unusually (and excitingly) of all, our top three docs of the year were made by new feature filmmakers. And our favorite documentary this year will likely be unfamiliar to most of our readers, but is an absolute must-see. Here are the 20 Best Documentaries of 2012.

20. Under African Skies
Director: Joe Berlinger
Joe Berlinger’s fascinating, immersive documentary Under African Skies celebrates the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album and examines the firestorm of controversy that it ignited.The narrative core of the film is Simon’s 2011 return to South Africa to stage a reunion concert and, most poignantly, a conversation between him and Dali Tambo about their opposing stances 25 years ago and where they find themselves today. To his credit, Berlinger presents all arguments impartially and leaves the viewer to come to his or her own terms with Simon’s motives and actions.—Clay Steakley

19. The Queen of Versailles
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Lauren Greenfield only meant to take a few pictures of a very wealthy family in the midst of all their opulence. Her subjects were the Siegels—the self-made billionaire, the trophy wife, the eight not-as-maladjusted-as-you-might-think children, the monochromatic menagerie of animals. But once the family began opening up about their lives, the woman behind the camera decided to stick around a little while longer, positing that there might be more to this story than just infinity symbols for account balances. Her perseverance resulted in an alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching cautionary tale about the excesses of the American dream.—Tyler Chase

19. The Queen of Versailles
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Lauren Greenfield only meant to take a few pictures of a very wealthy family in the midst of all their opulence. Her subjects were the Siegels—the self-made billionaire, the trophy wife, the eight not-as-maladjusted-as-you-might-think children, the monochromatic menagerie of animals. But once the family began opening up about their lives, the woman behind the camera decided to stick around a little while longer, positing that there might be more to this story than just infinity symbols for account balances. Her perseverance resulted in an alternately hilarious and heart-wrenching cautionary tale about the excesses of the American dream.—Tyler Chase

18. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Director: Joe Berlinger
In 1993, the bodies of three eight-year-old boys were discovered in a creek in West Memphis, Ark. They were naked and hogtied, and had possibly been sexually mutilated before being murdered. It’s hard to believe that a situation could get any worse from there, but it did. Three teenage boys were put on trial for the crime. None of them had anything to do with it. They might have been victims of the system, had their case not caught the attention of documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Given that all three of these documentaries draw attention to the institutional problems of our legal system, it only makes sense that the long-awaited outcome would still be frustrating. As much as we would like to hope otherwise, there was never any Hollywood-style perfect happy ending to this case in the picture. This is what Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelly had to settle for: the good enough. There’s a valuable lesson right there.—Dan Schindel

17. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Director: Alex Gibney
Alex Gibney’s latest film delves into the history of sexual molestation in the Catholic Church as cases began to emerge in the late ’50s. Even though it can be incredibly sad and frustrating, the documentary is able to go beyond the tragedy of these boys’ lost childhoods, using empathy to incite anger, impatience and action in its audience. The lack of answers or rectification for the victims and the church’s attitude of omnipotence and turning a blind eye is enough to move even the most passive viewer to want to dosomething. And it’s that persuasive power that makes Mea Maxima Culpa a great documentary. The film is able to tell these traumatic stories without limiting them to just the impotence of sadness and lack of resolution; it encourages its viewers through history and facts to participate in the same sense of rage and injustice underscored with retributive justice that this group of deaf men so eloquently embody in their stories and interviews.—Emily Kirkpatrick

16. Shut Up and Play the Hits
Directors: Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern
A year ago, hundreds of friends and thousands of fans converged on Madison Square Garden for LCDSoundsystem’s farewell performance. All the while, the cameras were rolling, resulting in Shut Up And Play the Hits, a documentary that follows James Murphy and the band in the days leading up to, during and after the tumultuous four-hour farewell. Directors Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern use a staggering number of cameras and crosscut liberally to provide an experience that’s arguably even better than seeing the band live (okay, maybe not quite that good but…). And the scenes outside the concert footage are equally compelling. —Michael Dunaway/Bo Moore

15. The Waiting Room
Director: Peter Nicks
A heart-wrenching wake-up call about the complex problems with our healthcare system in America. Director Peter Nicks chronicles patients who are waiting for treatment in a saftey-net hospital in Oakland, Calif. People living without health insurance talk about their hardships and struggles as they to find relief for their illnesses. A real eye-opener, The Waiting Room beautifully pieces together disparate stories that make us question our current healthcare system, and point us to reform. —Danielle Radin

14. Brooklyn Castle
Director: Katie Dellamaggiore
The subject of Brooklyn Castle sounds like the premise for a soppy, Oscar-baiting drama. At I.S. 138 in Brooklyn, New York, a competitive chess program has helped an extraordinary number of lower-income inner city students improve their standings in life. But this documentary is all real, which makes the triumphs and failures of these kids all the more affecting. Featuring a delightful roster of vibrant young people and a timely exploration of how budget cuts are harming extracurricular programs, it may be the best school doc since Resolved_._—Dan Schindel

13. Tchoupitoulas
Directors: Bill Ross and Turner Ross
Named for the New Orleans street that traces the Mississippi River from the southern edge of the French Quarter through Uptown, Tchoupitoulas is a lyrical nighttime exploration of the city from the point of view of three brothers who embark on a secret, illicit adventure in the Big Easy. On the heels of Bryan, Kentrell and especially little William Zanders, filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross (who are brothers themselves) dip into the flow of Crescent City nightlife—the revelers, the hustlers, the street preachers and especially the musicians—with a vérité camera, watching and listening, without motive or commentary. The result is less documentary than experience, an immersion in a neighborhood infused with culture and soul.—Annlee Ellingson

12. How To Survive a Plague
Director: David France
A New York journalist who has covered the AIDS epidemic for 30 years, first-time filmmaker David France has assembled a superb record of the decade-long fight for a viable treatment protocol and an intimate portrait of the personalities leading the charge. How to Survive is indeed a tale of survival, but the AIDScommunity didn’t get there without a fight—and a steep personal toll. —Annlee Ellingson

11. Bully
Director: Lee Hirsch
According to the Department of Education, 13 million children will be bullied this year. Bully profiles five of these victims, including Alex, a 12-year-old seventh grader at East Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa. Alex’s victimization, as well as the well-meaning yet highly ineffectual efforts of school administrators and even his parents to deal with what they don’t fully understand, is caught on tape. Alex is subjected to the foulest of threats and name-calling by his peers. He’s also hit, pushed, poked and stabbed—all on film. Hirsch was able to capture such shocking behavior by blending into the fabric of the school while shooting over the course of the 2009-2010 academic year. He also wielded a Canon 5D Mark II, which looks like a regular still camera, an equipment choice that also yielded footage that struggles to stay in focus. Still, the camera yields exquisite imagery with the intimate feel of home video, especially in Hirsch’s moving interviews with the parents of Tyler and Ty.—Annlee Ellingson

10. Undefeated
Director: Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin
In introducing us to Coach Bill Courtney, Undefeated finds its voice. The Memphis family man and owner of a lumber business isn’t just the team’s coach; he’s a father figure, mentor and therapist to its troubled players. O.C., Chavis and “Money” are, for all their pluck, still teenagers from broken homes—making them especially difficult and moody. It’s a marvel how tirelessly Courtney works to instill character, discipline and selflessness into each of them—to mold these boys into sound human beings. WatchingUndefeated, one realizes that it’s on the backs of individuals like Courtney that entire communities find their soul, their humanity.—Jay Antani

9. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Director: Alison Klayman
Alison Klayman’s loving portrait of China’s dissident artist Ai Weiwei may strike some as hagiographic, but how can it not be? This is a man who would be a major artist no matter what his national origin. Yet both his art and his story are made infinitely more fascinating by the incredible courage and steadfastness he shows in openly defying and mocking one of the most evil regimes on Earth. He’s smarter than them, he’s more talented than them, and he’s more charismatic and popular than them. Of course, they have the guns. That the fight seems evenly matched may be the greatest tribute of all.—Michael Dunaway

8. Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters
Director: Ben Shapiro
Many photographers work meticulously for ever-more-true depictions of physical reality. Not Gregory Crewdson. His delberatley conceived, meticulously constructed, artificfially lit scenes are more like paintings; they just happen to be captured with a camera. Ben Shapiro’s documentary isn’t a particularly deep dig into Crewdson’s background or psychology, nor is it a linear story with conflict and climax. It’s really just an exploration of the work itself, as we look over Crewdson’s shoulder while he prepares, shoots and opens his monumental “Beneath the Roses” show. It’s a fascinating, unforgettable ride. —Michael Dunaway

7. Marley
Director: Kevin Macdonald
It’s not entirely clear why director Kevin Macdonald decided to make a documentary about the musician Bob Marley, a cultural icon whose life has been recounted countless times through a variety of mediums. Macdonald claims it’s because he wants to understand why Marley continues to speak to legions of fans around the world. Whatever his reasons, he’s clearly up to the task. Marley offers an expansive and at times fascinating perspective on the man through interviews with his fellow former Wailers, family, and childhood friends. The film is fairly detailed concerning Marley’s songwriting and musicianship from his early ska days up through the release of Catch a Fire. After this, however, it skips through his catalogue, choosing to focus more on his personal life, conversion to Rastafarianism, the tumultuous state of Jamaican politics, and his prolific womanizing—all of which are important elements of the artist’s character.—Jonah Flicker

6. West of Memphis
Director: Amy Berg
The buzziest documentary of the Sundance Film Festival was also one of the very best. The involvement of Peter Jackson (one of the film’s producers), Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, and others, as well as the very recent dramatic developments in the case, ensured that. The film itself is enormously moving. Any investigative documentary, especially dealing with the wrongly accused, walks in the gargantuan footsteps of Errol Morris and his seminal The Thin Blue Line. Director Amy Berg received an Academy Award nomination for her Deliver Us From Evil, but the fact that she lives up to the legacy of Morris’ film may be an even greater accomplishment. In addition to chronicling justice, West of Memphis actually helps enact it. What higher calling can there be?—Michael Dunaway

5. Searching for Sugar Man
Director: Malik Bendjelloul
“The Story of the Forgotten Genius” is such a well-worn formula for music documentaries that it was already being parodied more than three decades ago in This is Spinal Tap. In Searching for Sugar Man, as Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul begins to tell the story of Rodriguez—the Dylanesque folk rocker who released two apparently brilliant albums in the early 1970s, then disappeared—it appears he’s traveling a familiar road. But that road takes a sharp left turn when we learn that bootleg recordings catapulted Rodriguez to stratospheric heights of fame in apartheid-era South Africa. (When a record-store owner is asked if Rodriguez was as big as the Rolling Stones, he matter-of-factly replies “Oh, much bigger than that.”). In fact, his uncensored depictions of sex and drugs were so thrilling to South African musicians that he became the patron saint of the Afrikaner punk movement, which in turn laid the groundwork for the organized anti-apartheid movement that eventually brought the regime down. It’s just a shame that Rodriguez never lived to see it—he burned himself to death onstage in the middle of a show. Or overdosed in prison. Or shot himself alone in his apartment. Or… could he still be alive? Bendjelloul’s film manages to create an aura of mystery and suspense around a search that actually unfolded 14 years ago—a “detective documentary” set in the very recent past.—Michael Dunaway

4. This Is Not a Film
Directors: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
In December 2010, renowned Iranian director Jafar Panahi (Offside) was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for 20 years. His crime? Supporting the opposition party during Iran’s highly charged 2009 election. Three months later on the eve of the Iranian New Year, while his wife and children are away delivering gifts, Panahi is home alone in his apartment. He turns on a camera. What follows is a document of the day-to-day life of a man under house arrest: He spreads jam on bread. He brews tea. He feeds his daughter’s pet iguana. He calls his family. He checks in with his lawyer. But it also evolves into a provocative meditation on the nature of filmmaking itself: Although he has been barred from directing films, writing screenplays, leaving the country and conducting interviews, Panahi’s sentence says nothing about reading or acting, so this is what he does, explaining what his most recent film would have been about had he been allowed to make it. Like René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, in which the artist scrawls the words “This is not a pipe” under a painting of just such a smoking device, this is not a film but a representation of one.—Annlee Ellingson

3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Director: David Gelb
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about one of the greatest masters of the culinary world, one whom casual foodies have never even heard of. Although Jiro’s work is ostensibly the focus of the documentary, the film is really propelled by the story of his relationship with his two sons; the youngest of whom has started his own restaurant, and the oldest of whom, at the age of 50, continues to work with his father, training to one day take over his restaurant. Devoid of the typical familial jealousy you may expect, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is instead a beautifully filmed documentary about a father and his sons who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of the perfect piece of sushi. —Emily Kirkpatrick

2. The Imposter
Director: Bart Layton
It’s obvious The Imposter is going to be a thriller, and a thriller it is, and then some. Three years after the disappearance of their 13-year-old son, a Texas family receive word he’s been found in Spain. When they go to pick him up, they’re so desperate to believe he’s alive that they don’t even notice that the “boy” is actually a French man in his mid-twenties. Is it a monumental case of grief and hope blinding sense, or is there a darker explanation? Director Bart Layton mixes elements of documentary and narrative filmmaking seamlessly in ways I’ve never seen done before. And every character he uncovers in the drama is more of a treasure trove than the last. It’s one of the most compelling films you’ll see all year, in any genre.—Michael Dunaway

1. Low and Clear
Directors: Kahlil Hudson and Tyler Hughen
Reading the description of Kahlil Hudson and Tyler Hughen’s remarkable film—two friends who are world-class fishermen, half a country apart, take a trip to British Columbia to fly fish and reconnect—you’ll think that you’re in for a slow, meditative, deeply felt journey with lots of beautiful scenery. And it is meditative and deeply felt and beautiful, but it’s anything but slow. Having two fascinating, outspoken, and often at-odds subjects helps, as does the deft and slightly mischievous touch of editor Alex Jablonski. But most of all, Hudson and Hughen seem determined not to settle for a tone poem and tell a real story here. And it’s mesmerizing.—Michael Dunaway


(compiled by michael dunaway for paste magazine)

Homeland‘: Farewell To Greatness


To remain a brilliant, top-tier show, Homeland needed a miracle in the Season 2 finale.

It didn’t get it.

What Homeland did accomplish in 70 minutes is hammer home the kind of show it will be going forward, which wasn’t what attracted most people to it in the first place. Homeland is now a full-blown love story between Brody (Damian Lewis) and Carrie (Claire Danes), a kind of “spy who loves me even if I’m crazy and maybe he’s reformed” kind of thing.

That’s not the show I’m really interested in watching. Primarily because, in the second season, I just never bought the Carrie-Brody connection. I never felt it. Probably because it made such little sense. Listen, Brody and Carrie playing a game of cat-and-mouse between spy and agent? Sure, that’s good. And this, apparently, is where Homeland has been heading all along. Now, I had always believed – and most of the people I’ve heard from believed – that Homeland worked best as a spy thriller. Had anyone said, “Oh, by the way, it’ll turn into a love story between these two” then I wouldn’t have invested the time.

My worry for Homeland is that it’s now precisely where the creators and Showtime want it to be – the spy who loved me thing, with the intricacies of making Carrie and Brody’s doomed love ever find peace and happiness. Ugh. I’m utterly convinced, from talks with people near the show, that this was the long term plan.

Unfortunately, what mucks the whole thing up is that setting the stage to get there was what made Homeland a great show. Having those two at odds – the cat and the mouse – was what moved Homeland. First it was “is he or isn’t he” a spy? Then it was, “will he or won’t he” perpetrate an act of terrorism on the United States? A quarter of that was Carrie having screwed up feelings about Brody because, well, Carrie is screwed up.

To have the finale be this elaborate, incredibly complicated plan by Abu Nazir – that needed an untold number of coincidences to be successful – wherein he exacts maximum revenge from the grave and still pins it on Brody is a step too far. That might have elicited some high-fives in the writers’ room (we pulled it all together!) but I fear it will be met with disappointment and cynicism from a large contingent of fans. Because to have that plan work out perfectly — flaws and all — just to set up a scenario where Carrie works to free an innocent Brody from a worldwide manhunt in the name of love is, let’s be really straight about this, an incredible letdown.

Now, just to clear up a couple of important factors. No, I don’t think Brody was playing Carrie so he can complete his ultimate mission. Create as many theories as you’d like, but the primary emphasis of this finale was to put the Abu Nazir storyline in the past while also having the after-effect be that Brody is a fugitive and Carrie will be tracking him (because, in the logic of Homeland, she knows him best, so you can’t take her off the case). But in the course of trying to bring him in, she will be working to clear his name. Maybe somewhere in Season 5 the doomed lovers can go back to that cottage in the woods, get a good night’s sleep and put their feet in the lake and exhale, growing old together.

That’s not the show I’m particularly keen to watch.  However, I’d be foolish to say at this point that I won’t watch Season 3. By then I may have put aside my disappointment for what Homeland could have been and for what I wanted it to be, and proceed only slightly begrudgingly with this new idea of fugitive and savior, with love at the core.

In the latter half of Season 2, Homeland got incredibly preposterous and lost its way. It was implausible. That implausibility undercut all the hard-earned praise from Season 1. And the show crept ever closer to 24, the comparison nobody wants (if you’re trying to make a great series).

In Season 3, it looks like Saul will be in command. Against all logic, Carrie will be retained. As a team, they will try to track down Brody (but for different reasons). I would watch that show for one reason – an increased role for Mandy Patinkin, who completely and utterly anchors the show. Maybe Brody will go all Jason Bourne on us – those movies are pretty great, you know. He will elude capture even though pretty much everyone in the world knows what he looks like. It could be a fun and entertaining show.

But here’s what it won’t be – Homeland, Season 1. That was a truly superb series. That’s the show I loved. Hey, it was great while it lasted. Most of Season 2 fell far short of the bar set the prior season. And now maybe Season 3 will have different expectations. Because it will be a different show.

(by Tim Goodman for hollywoodreporter.com)


If you missed it earlier, here’s Us Against The World, in full, from the new #Live2012 film.

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