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Fist Fight

A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…

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A Cure for Wellness

As a fetish object, it’s impressive. But as a fully satisfying feature-length drama, it’s a bust.

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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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Taste into theory

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"It's film-tastic!"

A warm-up for this weekend's Contrarianism Blog-a-Thon -- from Manohla Dargis's piece on the Film Comment Selects series, in today's New York Times:

Film criticism, as it has been observed, is the rationalization of taste into theory. No matter how involved the argument, writing about the movies almost always comes down to a question of personal taste, to that web of influence through which we filter each new film. In this respect there are no good or bad movies, just good and bad arguments, a thought that serves as a useful introduction to the latest edition of "Film Comment Selects," a giddily idiosyncratic annual series that could only have sprung from feverishly partisan minds. [...]

For serious critics, and the critics who write for Film Comment are nothing if not serious (and at times self-serious), the second-best thing to perfection is often the near-miss, the disreputable and even the despised. Next to discovering a new director, planting a flag in an uncharted national cinema or sitting next to Zooey Deschanel at an event, few things please a critic more than polishing a tarnished career or taking on a dubious cause, particularly if everyone else really hated it.

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