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Citizenfour

Though superlatives can mischaracterize any movie’s qualities, it is not an overstatement, I think, to call “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’ film about Edward Snowden, the movie…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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The most taxing people in movies

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For tax day, the editors at MSN Movies came up with an idea for contributors to write short essays about the most, ahem, "taxing" people in modern movies. Each of us picked a person whose presence, behind or in front of the camera, we find wearisome and debilitating -- as in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of taxing: "onerous, wearing."

You've probably already guessed my choice. I've written quite a bit about why I find Christopher Nolan's post-"Memento" work lackluster, but this exercise gave me an opportunity to condense my reservations about his writing and directing into one relatively concise piece:

Let me say up front that I don't think Nolan is a bad or thoroughly incompetent director, just a successfully pedestrian one. His Comic-Con fan base makes extravagant claims for each new film -- particularly since Nolan began producing his graphic-novel blockbusters with "Batman Begins" in 2005 -- but the movies are hobbled by thesis-statement screenplays that strain for significance and an ungainly directing style that seems incapable of, and uninterested in, illustrating more than one thing at a time: "Look at this. Now look at this. Now look at this. Now here's some dialogue to explain the movie's fictional rules. Now a character will tell you what he represents and what his goals are." And so on ... You won't experience the thrill of discovery while looking around in a Nolan frame. You'll see the one thing he wants you to see, but everything around it is dead space. [...]

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Go, Manohla, go!

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Ah, this is so refreshing. New York Times critic Manohla Dargis -- one of my favorites, as you know -- talks to Jezebel.com about women in Hollywood -- and doesn't hold back. (Compare and contrast with the arguments over Publishers Weekly's Top 10 books.) Just a few highlights:

>>"I am an equal opportunity critic. I will pan women as hard as men. I've had testy people imply that I should go easier on women's movies. I find that incredibly insulting. Are you kidding me? I don't want to be graded on a curve. None of us want to be a 'good woman writer.'

"I don't want to be the woman critic. I don't want to be the feminist critic. I don't want to be the shrew. What I want to do is talk about the art that I love and point out, every so often, inequities....It's a weird balancing act and I'm not saying there aren't contradictions."

>>"The only thing Hollywood is interested in money, and after that prestige. That's why they'll be interested in something like 'The Hurt Locker.' [Kathryn Bigelow's] done so well critically that she can't be ignored.

"Let's acknowledge that the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them. But they are important commercially... I've learned to never underestimate the academy's bad taste. 'Crash' as best picture? What the fuck."

>> "This business is really about clubby relationships. If you buy Variety or go online and look at the deals, you see one guy after another smiling in a baseball cap. It's all guys making deals with other guys. I had a female studio chief a couple of years ago tell me point blank that she wasn't hiring a woman to do an action movie because women are good at certain things and not others. If you have women buying that bullshit how can we expect men to be better?"

>> "I personally don't think either of them [Nancy Meyers or Nora Ephron] is a good filmmaker -- they make movies for me that are more emotionally satisfying but with barely any aesthetic value at all. I really like "Something's Gotta Give," but I don't think it's a good movie.... I'm of two minds. Sometimes I think that women should do what various black and gay audiences have done, which is support women making movies for women. So does that mean I have to go support Nora Ephron? Fuck no. That's just like, blech."

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