Latest Features

New to Streaming: ‘Two Days, One Night,’ ‘Gangs of Wasseypur,’ ‘The Riot Club,’ ‘Into the Woods,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

Charlie Victor Romeo (Karlyn Michelson, Patrick Daniels, and Robert Berger)

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Verbatim theatre is a genre that aims to provide a certain kind of honesty through anonymity. Performances are derived from primary source documents like interviews, or, in the case of Charlie Victor Romeo, transcripts of NTSB reports of actual aviation emergencies. Shot over the course of a few evenings in a black box theater in front of a live studio audience, the film adaptation of Charlie Victor Romeo (performed since 1999) is a harrowing psychological experience. Centered squarely on the text, the film’s sets are minimal; Flight, this is not. The utilitarian cockpit set looks like something out of 1970′s Saturday Night Live, but is used to depict six emergencies with varying outcomes and durations. Often split-second decisions are made, complicating the notion of “human error.” - John F.

Where to Stream: Netflix

Gangs of Wasseypur (Anurag Kashyap)

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Densely plotted, Gangs is a stunning achievement, whether taken collectively or individually. Over the course of these five hours, we’ve experienced prison escapes, drug-addled sibling rivalries, revenge killings, tense life-or-death meetings, a Sonny-at-the-tollbooth-style esque massacre, lying politicians, “money and debauchery,” and a dash of Bollywood, with a unique use of music and lyrics to comment on the action (“This barter of bloody blows will make you cry”). Director Kashyap has succeeded in creating a gangster drama that feels fresh and realistic – no easy feat. Yes, it is unwieldy, and Part 2 lacks the visceral impact of Part 1. But there’s no doubt that Gangs of Wasseypur is an exhilarating creation, a not-to-be-missed cinematic event, and a work as sprawling, messy, and open-ended as real life. – Chris. S. (full review)

Where to Stream: Fandor

Into the Woods (Rob Marshall)

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The involvement of Disney on any adaptation of beloved source material can’t help being a double-edged sword. On the one hand their clout and financial backing will ensure the production looks fantastic and attracts the type of talent worthy of the property. On the other their brand brings with it a very specific morality code and target demographic. What this means is that something as dark as Into the Woods and its satirical take on all our favorite fairy tales playing up the lecherous sexuality of princes and wolves along with the ruthlessness and selfishness of supposed kind-hearted people on a quest to have their wishes come true is bound to get rendered a tad less suggestive. These aspects are retained, but that coveted PG family-friendly rating demands their full purpose be watered down or excised completely. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Kill Me Three Times (Kriv Stenders)

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Director Kriv Stenders left the audience seated for his latest film Kill Me Three Times with the words, “I hope you have as much fun watching as we had making it.” I doubt I did, but I cannot deny it wasn’t the sort of entertaining romp that keeps you on your toes hypothesizing who—if anyone—survives. It seems such a small thing, but a movie with no fear in killing its characters is a lot more enjoyable than one forcing you to watch misfires and flesh wounds so the would-be victim can become the perpetrator later on. A few shots fired do miss their target here and the first did make me sigh as I incredulously thought, “Here’s another one.” Thankfully, however, the shooter rolls his eyes with an equal measure of frustration, retakes aim, and finishes the job. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The November Man (Roger Donaldson)

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A few brain cells short and a handful of years too late, The November Man arrives in theaters, the longtime passion project of former James Bond player Pierce Brosnan, as directed by veteran filmmaker Roger Donaldson. Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a beaten-up and turned-out spy who just can’t get out of the game. Early on, tragedy strikes at the hand of his most promising protege (Luke Bracey), and the rest falls to retribution and the idea of ‘making it right.’ – Dan M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

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‘Ride the Pink Horse’ Hits Criterion: Edges of the Frame

Written by Peter Labuza, March 25, 2015 at 4:05 pm 

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It’s often been said, and not without reason, that Double Indemnity is a perfect movie. Each line of dialogue in Raymond Chandler’s screenplay, the methodical camera placement of Billy Wilder’s direction, the lustful gazes of Fred MacMurray toward the illuminating skin of Barbara Stanwyck. All these choices form something of a machine: this film is going straight to the end of the line, baby, and nothing can stop it.

But perhaps perfection isn’t the best way to approach a medium. What happens to the oddballs, the discarded objects, the things that can’t quite come together? They’re not perfect, but, man, can they sometimes sizzle. When Andrew Sarris coined the influential category “Expressive Esoterica” in of The American Cinema, he wrote of the directors: “Their deeper virtues are often obscured by irritating idiosyncrasies on the surface, but they are generally redeemed by their seriousness and grace.” This is the world of Robert Montgomery’s categorically eccentric Ride the Pink Horse, a 1947 border noir now out on Blu-Ray from The Criterion Collection.

Montgomery has always remained on the outskirts of film history. He gave two deeply expressive performances in the wrongly ignored Hitchcock screwball Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Ford’s haunting war drama They Were Expendable. As a director, his name comes up for the not-particularly-great experiment Lady In the Lake, an entirely POV adaptation of the Chandler novel. Ride the Pink Horse, adapted from a book by Dorothy Hughes (author of In a Lonely Place), is a harder film to sum up.

Produced by Universal’s Joan Harrison—one of the rare female producers at the time, and a co-writer on a number of Hitchcock films—it’s a crime story set in New Mexico, with Montgomery tracking down a gangster who popped his friend and in want of money. But Lucky Gagin (oh, what a name!) is, frankly, a total idiot. His plot to bribe Hugo (Fred Clark) is incredibly convoluted, he can’t elude the seemingly harmless police officer on his case, and there isn’t a trap he doesn’t fall for. He spends a good half of the film with a bullet in his belly, a metaphor for film noir if there ever was one.

But the plot of the film speaks nothing to the way it all moves. One of Pink Horse’s opening scenes features an extended long take as Montgomery hides a key piece of evidence in a bus station, each track of dolly carefully laid out to catch his precise actions. He craftily sneaks into the room where his prey lies, but when only the butler is around, he unleashes a hell of violence. A jarring tonal jerk is made once again when Rita Conde enters as the femme fatale, and this film suddenly launches into a sexual tête-à-tête all before the entrance of Hugo. A portly man in the Sydney Greenstreet vein, nothing is odder than the hearing receiver he wears in his breast pocket. Like many of the details in Ride the Pink Horse, this has no bearing on the plot (unlike, say, the use of a similar receiver in Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo), but simply sits as one of the details that pulls us toward the edges of the film, what we might often not notice.

Film noir — as a construct, a genre, a style, or, as I have proposed, a mode-like melodrama — is full of signifiers that never totally apply, especially considering the expanding canon. Imogen Smith, interviewed on the disc, has done much to help us reconsider the role of urban anxiety in film noir, and Ride the Pink Horse is a perfect example. The film is set in an amalgamated mix of New Mexico communities (here simply “San Pablo”), but most notably Santa Fe during the Pasatiempo, an anti-carnival carnival organized in the Bakhtinian spirit, highlighted by the burning of the giant marionette Zozobra. Dominique Brégent-Heald has critiqued the scopophilic gaze of native traditions, what gives Ride The Pink Horse its spark is this turn toward  the normal bounds of what we watch when we watch. It’s a picture about the margins — of America, of masculinity, of race — and thus defines itself by the constant turns. Despite its possible status as a postwar film, Ride the Pink Horse fits better as a timeless film, by which I mean, rather literally, time-less: its universe exists outside time. Nobody really has a past, and nobody really has a future. Everyone exists only in this moment.

Lucky Gagin drags his feet through the town, befriending a Mexican drunk who emotes like he’s performing Henry V, and falling for a Native American ingénue: Wanda Hendrix’s deeply emotive performance as Pila. She keeps him alive through her strive to see the man as something extraordinary, to believe in him, finally undercutting him by the ending. When, as their romance ends, she immediately turns to her friends and recounts the story that has just taken place. All he can do is look on in befuddlement while finally returning home. What was his existence becomes her myth. (Michael Almereyda, in the Criterion essay, connects this to the use of female voiceover in Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Days of Heaven.)

In 1963, Jacques Rivette wrote that, in Ride the Pink Horse, Montgomery wanted “to see the world indirectly or from the other side of the mirror. In order to see it as more true than the truth.” Montgomery’s film is simply a witness to a world of whiskey bars, carnivals, and territories rarely traversed — more about what we don’t see than what we do. He’s a foreigner in his own backyard, despite having just come home. And if Ride the Pink Horse isn’t perfect, it’s a testament for directing our eyes to things just beyond the frame, capturing something ephemeral and mummifying what was in the process.

Ride the Pink Horse is now available on The Criterion Collection.

Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: Errol Morris, ‘Actress,’ Alfred Hitchcock, and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best (or most interesting) films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

Actress (Robert Greene)

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As if Sirk and the Maysles brothers had an anxiety-ridden child (don’t ask about that procreation process), Actress is one of the few functional “boundary-blurring” documentaries of late because Robert Greene, a keen observer of movement, had discovered a perfect subject and the best story for it. At one moment intimate and comfortable, at the next an unpleasant dive into an emotional maelstrom, its shape makes one wonder that the tired “we’re all actors” maxim would be tried anywhere but the documentary format. – Nick N.

The End of Violence (Wim Wenders)

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Don’t let the contemporaneous reviews of The End of Violence fool you. It may not be Paris, Texas or Wings of Desire, but Wim Wenders’ noir-indebted story of film producer Michael Max (Bill Pullman) finding himself on the run from after a bungled attempt on his life and the angel watching him from on high (Gabriel Byrne, more flesh and blood than Bruno Ganz’s angel in Wings of Desire) is a self-aware and humorous bit of fun. Perhaps the story is more than a little rough and the ideas overflow without coalescing, but good cinematography and a great score (courtesy frequent collaborator Ry Cooder), and the story’s reflexivity regularly remind us that The End of Violence is more about experiencing than apprehending, and it’s a fun ride to experience. – Forrest C.

Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida (Errol Morris)

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Errol Morris‘ jump into the documentary filmmaking fray was such a difficult exercise that Werner Herzog promised to eat his shoe if it was ever completed. What he’ll need to do now that you can buy it in 1080p from major retailers… well, regardless, Gates of Heaven and his superior follow-up, Vernon, Florida, have been given a necessary sprucing-up. Morris speaks of the films in a pair of extended interviews, while Herzog makes two appearances on this set — one as a shoe-eater, the other as a mere lover of cinema. You’ll feel similarly adulatory when you’re through with the whole thing. – Nick N.

John Ford: Dreaming he Quiet Man (Se Merry Doyle)

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While John Ford is known for his workmanlike output in the world of directing, a new documentary takes a look at one of his spare passion projects, The Quiet Man. After trying to get it made for nearly two decades, he finally released the Ireland-set romance in 1952. Initially released a few years, but now coming to Blu-ray today thanks to Olive Films, it features interviews with star Maureen O’Hara, as well as Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and Jim Sheridan. Although one might imagine the focus is narrow, specifically resting on one film, John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man is an engaging, comprehensive look through his entire life as reflected in his desire to tell this specific story. – Jordan R.

The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris)

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Its central mystery was solved decades ago, but Errol Morris‘ documentary remains stirring for its aesthetically radical look at the nature of truth in words and images. It’s been in need of restoration for years, which makes Criterion’s service all the more important — not just for improving the cinematographic character of an older film, but, in particular, an older film that’s so dependent upon the specifics of what we’re seeing. (It hardly seems like a coincidence that the original poster is a pair of eyes superimposed over a ticking clock.) The special features are slim but nevertheless enticing, from an interview with Morris to Joshua Oppenheimer heaping his praises upon the picture to a news segment that slightly extends the film’s narrative. And, oh, how nice the Philip Glass score now sounds. - Nick N.

Vincent and Theo (Robert Altman)

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Vincent & Theo is one of the more overlooked films from the late Robert Altman. Altman gets us right under the skin of Vincent van Gogh (Tim Roth), beautifully conveying what makes him and his, at the time, under-appreciated art tic. Vincent & Theo is, in some ways, more conventional than Altman’s other great works, but it’s no less impactful. This is a powerful film about art and obsession, with a terrific performance from Roth at the center of it. – Jack G.

Also Available This Week

Digging up the Marrow (review)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (review)
Into the Woods (review)
Song One (review)
Unbroken (review)

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray) – $98.99

The American (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.74

Beginners (Blu-ray) – $6.60

Black Swan (Blu-ray) - $7.04

The Bling Ring (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Bronson (Blu-ray) – $10.91

Burn After Reading (Blu-ray) – $8.85

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Captain Phillips (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Cloud Atlas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Collateral (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Contagion (Blu-ray) – $8.83

Do the Right Thing (Blu-ray) – $10.00

Drive (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Fly (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Gattaca (Blu-ray) – $9.23

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Good Will Hunting (Blu-ray) – $7.50

The Grandmaster (U.S. Cut Blu-ray) – $10.99

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Haywire (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $9.96

In the Loop (Blu-ray) – $7.66

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $8.12

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $10.00

L.A. Confidential (Blu-ray) – $8.60

Looper (Blu-ray) - $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Margaret (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Blu-ray) – $7.69

Night Moves (Blu-ray) – $9.39

No Country For Old Men (Blu-ray) – $7.18

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $7.17

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Pariah (Blu-ray) – $4.97

Persepolis (Blu-ray) – $9.00

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $9.10

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.49

The Rover (Blu-ray) – $9.99

The Secret In Their Eyes (Blu-ray) – $8.17

A Serious Man (Blu-ray) – $7.98

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $7.45

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $7.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $8.69

The Tree of Life (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Truman Show (Blu-ray) – $7.99

This is the End (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Under the Skin (Blu-ray) – $14.99

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.41

We Own the Night (Blu-ray) – $6.91

Where the Wild Things Are (Blu-ray) – $5.00

Whiplash (Blu-ray) – $14.99

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $9.99

What are you picking up this week?

New to Streaming: ‘Interstellar,’ ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,’ ‘Spring,’ ‘Wild,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 20, 2015 at 12:30 pm 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Ned Benson)

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While The Weinstein Company botched the three-pronged release of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby earlier this fall, today brings a chance to see all available versions as they’ve hit Netflix Instant. Exploring the ups and downs of a marriage between a recently split couple (James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain), we found the Them version to be a respectable drama, but we’re looking forward to see what the Her and Him versions have in store. – Jordan R.

Where to Stream: Netflix

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)

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It might feature a skate-boarding, hijab-wearing bloodsucker, but A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is much more than a hipster horror film. Set in a mythical landscape that feels like Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton took a gig art-directing Iran, Girl establishes a raw and seductive edge that is also dreamy and wistful, enamored of Old Hollywood’s visual legacy, inspired by a rich independent heritage, and completely in love with its characters. Turning the tropes of Universal horror films on their head — one scene features a tawdry pimp discovering he’s the classic damsel in distress — Amirpour creates a wonderful character in Sheila Vand’s nosferatu. She’s not a monster, but a convergence of several cultural insecurities, wrapped in a feral, defiantly female shell. Crafted from the familiar, Girls’ best feature is just how fearsomely original and confident it feels. Eraserhead and Bride of Frankenstein have new, welcome company in the annals of filmdom. – Nathan B.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)

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Alan Turing’s life comes tailor-made to fit the prestigious period drama mold that’s long been a staple of the British film and TV industries. For the most part, The Imitation Game is content to stay within the tropes of its genre. While undoubtedly nakedly manipulative, there’s the sense that this has become the formula because it can function so well in the right hands. Even the most cynical will feel some joy at the sudden breakthrough discoveries, or even tear up as Turing is persecuted for his homosexuality. However, what limits the film to effective feel-good weepie, rather than the great work it could have been, is that it never challenges the audience’s conscience. – Martin J. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)

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Sure, the film has some flaws. I think Nolan‘s visual style suffers with the absence of his usual collaborator, Wally Pfister, though Hoyte van Hoytema still shoots a beautiful film. All the same, Interstellar swings for the fences, and while it might throw out its shoulder and stumble on a twisted ankle in the homestretch, I’ll be damned if the ball doesn’t fly high over the fences and the runner doesn’t get the run (to stretch a metaphor to its breaking point). Nolan finds an incredible emotional depth in his material, performers, and narrative, making this the first of his works to bring tears to my eyes. The score is a bombastic overture perfectly in line with the starscapes and planets on display, and the overflowing optimism about humanity’s ability to reach to new heights makes this a powerful, worthy cinematic experience. – Brian R.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Life Itself (Steve James)

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It’s only fitting that documentary filmmaker Steve James, of Hoop Dreams fame, was able to capture the iconic film critic Roger Ebert during the final months of his life. Ebert was one of the voices who championed Hoop Dreams and helped elevate it to a broader limelight, exposing it to audiences who very likely would have never heard of it — as he did with countless other films. It seems almost impossible for any film critic, filmmaker, or filmgoer not to have been in one way or another influenced by Ebert and his vocal opinions. Based loosely on his autobiography of the same name, Life Itself examines the man who was revered for his frank, direct, and articulate opinions on cinema. - Raffi A. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

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‘Every Man for Himself’ and ‘The Soft Skin’ Hit Criterion: Looking Into The Wave

Written by Peter Labuza, March 17, 2015 at 2:00 pm 

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Looking at great artists is both a minefield of arduous love and misguided thought. We recognize them as masters without mistakes, every decision (regardless of its merit) another credit to their genius. We love the men (never women) in order to better canonize our chosen art form, all the better for our own posturing via lists, comparisons, and pronouncements. Most alarmingly, we stop looking at and describing the art itself. We repeat oft-handed quotations by others who evidenced the greatness long before, while the work that created our love in the first place fades. We simply stop looking.

I found myself reflecting on this fact while watching the latest additions to The Criterion Collection: Godard’s Every Man for Himself and Truffaut’s The Soft Skin. Both are, in some ways, considered minor works. For those who experienced Goodbye to Language, the closest Godard film they may have otherwise seen was likely his 1967 “fin de cinéma” Week-End. As those who have written about it will tell you, that became Godard’s “second first film,” jump starting a (slight) return to narrative filmmaking and a period that includes some of his best work: Hail Mary, Détective, King Lear. This stood in contrast to most of his ’70s output: documentaries made in Palestine and Mozambique on video, intense discussions of political theory captured by the camera, and works that pushed into almost pornographic territory. (If anything, it is Godard in the ’70s that remains still the most fruitful place of rediscovery, all too simplified by the term “political.”)

Truffaut’s The Soft Skin was made at the height of his powers in 1964, but nevertheless considered his first misstep after the trifecta of The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player, and Jules et Jim. It told a rather classical tale of a literature scholar (Jean Desailly) who falls into a spell of infidelity with a stewardess (Françoise Dorléac). It was only later “rescued” by critics who cited this as Truffaut’s first Hitchcock picture, for the Frenchman was simultaneously preparing the interviews that later comprised Hitchcock/Truffaut.

These are just contexts, however — ways to fill space without ever thinking through films. So what happens when we actually see?

Godard’s picture opens with images of the blue sky, the music (a synthesized beat from Carlos D’Alessio) pulsating us into a strangely erotic trance. It then cuts into the familiar Godard territory: a long static shot in a hotel room, obscuring us from directly viewing the action, but also placing our protagonist, the Swiss TV producer Paul Godard (Jacques Dutronc), in the center of the frame. We know this is Godard because each shot of Paul leaving the hotel feels simultaneously composed and imbued with a sense of realism via amateurism: the lighting is a bit too dark, the soundtrack makes it hard to follow the dialogue (an opera singer won’t shut up), and shots continue long after characters have disappeared from them.

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Godard’s Breathless was said to display a romantic view of Paris, but his camera has rarely shown romanticism. Every Man for Himself continues that trend. It contains more lyrical views of nature than most of his films: Paul’s ex-wife, Denise (Nathalie Baye), searches the countryside for a job and, more importantly, a new life. Her introduction is slowed-down and paused (a technique Godard developed during his videotape work in the ’70s), but there is something more to this looking. His filmmaking has always been one based around contradictions — at the same time we gaze at her, we realize we only view her as an image, or, to steal an oft-repeated film-studies term, we notice her “to-be-looked-at-ness.”

Godard has been charged with misogyny throughout his filmography — a statement not without some basis, but one that requires more thought than outrage. Every Man for Himself is (as the title may suggest) one of his most exploratory and unique in its consideration of gender relations. Paul may be the protagonist, but the story is truly about Denise and, later, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), a young prostitute who enters the lives of both. Sequence after sequence, Godard focuses on man’s frustration and almost outright anger toward women: Denise observes a young woman forced to choose between two men at a train station; Isabelle is humiliated by her clients into role-playing grotesquely pedophilic games (which recall Paul’s own discussion with a friend about their interest in children); and the film climaxes with a slow-motion thrust of Paul smashing his way to attack Denise across a table. Yet Amy Taubin, in her essay for Criterion, notices a difference in how Godard shoots Huppert and Baye from his other women: “They simply are not interested in attracting us or the film’s director, or metaphorically, the male gaze.” This is not the sad tale of Anna Karina, the prostitute-turned-allegorical-like-Joan of Arc, but women who look at and act out everyday existence.

Every Man for Himself,with its Brechtian detachment,feels like a ’60s Godard film. But it also feels more attuned to what is being shown onscreen. Besides a voice-over from Marguerite Duras, the usual range of philosophers and filmmakers are kept to a minimum. In this way, it’s more inward than outward. Is it also more personal? More autobiographical? These statements would never reveal more about the film. Every Man for Himself simply views the horrors of when we look closer at those often ignored.

Watching is also essential for The Soft Skin. If loving Godard has been framed as a love of cinema, loving Truffaut is a love of mise-en-scène. His films have a general realist tendency that can be traced to his own mentorship with André Bazin: shooting on location, long shots over close-ups, recording direct film sound. But this reading of Truffaut has perhaps lessened his impact in the history of cinema. Truffaut’s films are obsessed with storytelling in a way that differs from Godard’s breakdown of it. Perhaps this is why, as Jake Mulligan has noted, Truffaut has often been supplanted in film canons. To teach his work is to give power to the primacy of the word.

And yet, as Kent Jones notes in his video essay on the disc, “Words and images power each other forward.” Clarity, economy, directness. These are what power the images of The Soft Skin, which passes through time with lustful abandonment. Pierre immediately falls for Nicole, already caught while simply looking, in a close-up, at her slipping into heels underneath a curtain on his plane to Lisbon. He follows her into an elevator to what turns out to be an awkward threesome of gazes. While the camera keeps the shot democratically balanced, we know exactly where his eyes are going. Truffaut focuses on the intensity within Deasilly’s eyes while Georges Delerue’s score navigates the emotional territory in a Bernard Hermann-esque mix of intense passions and subtle sensitivity.

The influence of Hitchcock on The Soft Skin, which Jones deconstructs, has often been accredited to its thematic weight of violence, its beautiful women, and its occasional thriller attitude (especially in the runaround sequence at a hotel in Reims). But if we see Hitchcock in Truffaut, it is because of the camera’s gaze: his direct way of telling a story (a close-up of a hand turning on a light, and another immediately turning it off), swerving his camera through spaces with intensity. Another director may have been more passive. The camera thus unfurls this narrative much more than any dialogue could begin to register. When Pierre writes a declaration of love to Nicole and then spots her, Truffaut cuts from her face to an insert of the note, then out to Paul’s face, all before panning down to him crumpling up the note. With words, it would take minutes to describe what is registered by the camera in a matter of seconds.

This is to say that Truffaut shoots and edits with emotion, a dangerous territory that is all too mistrusted (not to mention misused) by most critics. But Truffaut was ultimately interested in human stories, and, as Jones explains, we are “left with a sense of extremely fragile, flawed but precious, throbbing, humanity.” The Soft Skin ends with an emotional gusto — an inevitable finale, but one with purpose, told with the same sort of paradoxically opaque clarity by the camera seen at the climax of Jules et Jim. Critics dismissed The Soft Skin as simply “bourgeois melodrama,” but what happens when we actually sit, look, and describe? Cinema happens.

Every Man for Himself and The Soft Skin are both available on Criterion.

Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: ‘The Lady From Shanghai,’ ‘Song of the Sea,’ ‘Pariah,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 17, 2015 at 12:53 pm 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best (or most interesting) films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles)

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While studio interference in the editing room was sadly common for the films of Orson Welles, more often than not it didn’t temper the visual imagination on display. And this is perhaps best exemplified by his 1947 noir about a sailor lured into a web of murder and deceit by a dangerous beauty. While many still claim to not fully have a grasp on the plot, it doesn’t really matter by the time the picture reaches its iconic house-of-mirrors finale. – Ethan V.

Ride the Pink Horse (Robert Montgomery)

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Robert Montgomery will always be remembered for his POV experiment in adapted Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake, but this curiosity from a year earlier is a gem of unruly, almost incomprehensibly ecstatic elements. A film noir set in a border town, it follows Montgomery on a revenge tale, caught up in the local color of a Native American ingenue, a loyal drunkard, an inconspicuous cop, and a giant papier-mâché clown. More than any other noir, it feels like the stuff dreams are made of. – Peter L.

Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore)

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Song of the Sea, the latest animated feature from The Secret of Kells director Tomm Moore, opens with a dreamlike sequence that quickly lays the foundation for most of what is to follow, both thematically and narratively. The traditional, handcrafted animation that Moore is again working with gives the movie a distinct, yet classically appealing aesthetic that visually distinguishes it from the variety of other animated offerings we’ve seen of late. The depth of the environments is truly remarkable, a layering of complex details and visual flourishes juxtaposed against the simpler design of the central characters. The nighttime sequences are somehow even more impressive as the images glow with such clarity as to almost create a 3D effect. – Brian P. (full review)

The Wild One (László Benedek)

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The Wild One introduces Marlon Brando as a sex symbol. László Benedek‘s greaser film is a relic of another time, an action movie of the 1950s that loves it’s leather jackets as much as its motorcycles. At certain points, it looks like Brando’s even having fun!! Now available on Blu-ray for the first time, Mill Creek’s release unfortunately includes zero extras, but if you’re a fan of the film, you’ll certainly want to pick it up. – Dan M.

Also Available This Week

Exodus: Gods and Kings (review)
The Humbling (review)
Top Five
Son of a Gun (review)

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

The American (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.74

Beginners (Blu-ray) – $6.60

Black Swan (Blu-ray) - $6.59

Bronson (Blu-ray) – $10.91

Burn After Reading (Blu-ray) – $8.84

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Captain Phillips (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Cloud Atlas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Collateral (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Contagion (Blu-ray) – $8.83

Do the Right Thing (Blu-ray) – $10.00

Drive (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Fly (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Gattaca (Blu-ray) – $9.86

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Good Will Hunting (Blu-ray) – $7.50

The Grandmaster (U.S. Cut Blu-ray) – $10.99

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Haywire (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $9.96

In the Loop (Blu-ray) – $8.09

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $8.12

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $10.00

L.A. Confidential (Blu-ray) – $8.60

Looper (Blu-ray) - $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Margaret (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Blu-ray) – $7.69

No Country For Old Men (Blu-ray) – $7.18

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Pariah (Blu-ray) – $5.27

Persepolis (Blu-ray) – $7.26

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $9.10

The Raid 2 (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.49

The Rover (Blu-ray) – $9.99

The Secret In Their Eyes (Blu-ray) – $8.17

A Serious Man (Blu-ray) – $8.53

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.50

sex, lies, and videotape (Blu-ray) – $8.19

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $7.47

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $7.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $8.69

The Tree of Life (Blu-ray) – $11.45

The Truman Show (Blu-ray) – $7.99

This is the End (Blu-ray) – $9.99

The Usual Suspects (Blu-ray) – $4.00

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.42

We Own the Night (Blu-ray) – $6.91

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $9.99

What are you picking up this week?

New to Streaming: ‘Winter Sleep,’ ‘A Most Violent Year,’ ‘Unbroken,’ ‘Listen Up Philip,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor)

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The Sidney Lumet talk is apt, as J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year certainly captures the scope and pulse of the late master’s dramas. But this is a dark-side-of-the-American-dream epic with a reach all its own. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain create the most compelling couple of the year, and by the time the credits role, the viewer feels as if they have just witnessed the most significant moments in the birth of a giant. – Chris S.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Cobbler (Thomas McCarthy)

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Adults need fairy tales too and Thomas McCarthy–with cowriter Paul Sado–deliver one in The Cobbler. They don’t try to pretend it’s something more, either, as its opening prologue can attest. We’re privy to older tradesmen on the Lower East Side speaking Yiddish around a table to think up a way to defeat the evil landlord raising their rent to drive them away. Cut to the local shoe man deemed their savior stitching up a pair of loafers with son in tow and we learn his machine has angel origins, giving it the power to render the cobbler able to literally walk in the shoes of his customers. Stitch them up, slip them on, and instantly he’s someone else. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Cymbeline (Michael Almereyda)

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It was 2000 when Michael Almereyda debuted his Hamlet adaptation, with a young Ethan Hawke as the troubled prince and a steely, haughty Manhattan skyscraper in lieu of Denmark. An alluring, timely rendition of the play – post-Luhrmann’s bombastic Romeo + Juliet, pre-9/11 – Hamlet remains interesting today because of the way it effortlessly captured that fleeting moment at the turn of the century, when the world was about to change and technology was in awkward flux. Almereyda is back at it fourteen years later with Cymbeline, a dramatically clunkier Shakespeare play, both in and of itself and for the challenges it presents to a modern adaptation. – Tommaso T. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)

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Beautifully simple yet breathtakingly bleak, the family turmoil at the heart of Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure hits a deeply resonant emotional chord. The plot revolves around an unexpected force of nature in the Alps that plunges a Swedish family into a frigid turmoil on a holiday retreat. There is an undercurrent of darkly comedic vibes that are accentuated with minimalist cinematography that carefully uses the wintery elements, like the encompassing blindness of snow, to great effect. But it’s the deadpan stares and demeaning looks between husband Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) that make it hard to turn away from the awkwardness of this powerful family drama. – Raffi A.

Where to Stream: Netflix

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean Deblois)

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What was so refreshing about Dreamworks original How To Train Your Dragon is that it offered up a stirring combination of grand spectacle and gentle imagination, working together to deliver a family-friendly adventure that expanded beyond the aims of a simple kid’s film. The relationship between Viking teen Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his beguiling dragon cohort Toothless was the backbone of the film, brought to vivid life by a bevy of animation artists and presented as a realistic bonding between human and animal. Directors Chris Sanders and Dean Debois used that team-up to disrupt the world they created—a secluded Nordic rock where Vikings and dragons battled in endless stalemate—while establishing a fearless sense of escapism in the movie itself. The good news is that How To Train Your Dragon 2 has been created in the same spirit, and although it chases after the elusive call of franchise, it still remembers to be wonderful where it counts. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

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Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: ‘Listen Up Philip,’ ‘Life of Riley,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 10, 2015 at 10:55 am 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best (or most interesting) films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

Life of Riley (Alain Resnais)

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No, Life of Riley can’t and won’t ever be removed from the context of its creator’s passing, but the resulting points between art, life, and death upon which every seconds thus operates makes clear that it shouldn’t. On paper an absolute downer — and, frankly, sometimes is; how can an extended close-up of Sabine Azéma professing her love for an unseen collaborator not be? — but, in execution, a comic celebration of the limited life affords us, bolstered by a fascinatingly complex visual and aural orchestration. Resnais, ending his career on just about the best closing images any filmmaker could ever ask for, leaves us with no option but to do what its French title suggests: enjoy, drink, and sing. – Nick N.

Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)

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The slow-motion, bronze-burnished descent into personal desolation, itself suggested as some men’s only way of ascending to artistic greatness. Already-mild concerns that we’d never receive a proper adaptation of Roth are forever gone, for Listen Up Philip’s commitment to this idea — aided in no small part by Perry’s growing formal acuity — brings us as close as we’ll ever need to get. Zuckerman, Lonoff, and, at some turns, Sabbath do indeed haunt the film’s periphery, but less as a result of direct influence — more, I think, because we’ve only now confronted the wreckage they leave behind. – Nick N.

The Soft Skin (François Truffaut)

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François Truffaut followed up the international phenomenon Jules and Jim with this tense tale of infidelity. The unassuming Jean Desailly is perfectly cast as a celebrated literary scholar, seemingly happily married, who embarks on an affair with a gorgeous stewardess, played by Françoise Dorléac, who is captivated by his charm and reputation. As their romance gets serious, the film grows anxious, leading to a wallop of a conclusion. Truffaut made The Soft Skin at a time when he was immersing himself in the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and that master’s influence can be felt throughout this complex, insightful, and underseen French New Wave treasure. – Criterion.com

Also Available This Week

The Liberator
R100 (review)

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

The American (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.74

Beginners (Blu-ray) – $6.60

Black Swan (Blu-ray) - $6.59

Bronson (Blu-ray) – $10.91

Burn After Reading (Blu-ray) – $8.85

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Captain Phillips (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Cloud Atlas (Blu-ray) – $7.98

Collateral (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Contagion (Blu-ray) – $8.83

Dead Man (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Do the Right Thing (Blu-ray) – $10.00

Drive (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Fly (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Gattaca (Blu-ray) – $9.34

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Good Will Hunting (Blu-ray) – $7.50

The Grandmaster (U.S. Cut Blu-ray) – $10.99

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $6.96

Haywire (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $9.96

In the Loop (Blu-ray) – $8.36

Inside Llewyn Davis (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $7.79

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $10.00

L.A. Confidential (Blu-ray) – $8.61

Looper (Blu-ray) - $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Margaret (Blu-ray) – $9.99

No Country For Old Men (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $9.29

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $8.99

Persepolis (Blu-ray) – $7.26

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Raid 2 (Blu-ray) – $10.00

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.49

The Rover (Blu-ray) – $9.99

The Secret In Their Eyes (Blu-ray) – $8.17

A Serious Man (Blu-ray) – $8.98

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.50

sex, lies, and videotape (Blu-ray) – $8.19

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $7.48

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $7.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $8.69

The Tree of Life (Blu-ray) – $11.39

The Truman Show (Blu-ray) – $7.99

This is the End (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.43

We Own the Night (Blu-ray) – $6.91

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $6.49

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $9.99

What are you picking up this week?

New to Streaming: ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Faults,’ ‘Actress,’ ‘Foxcatcher,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, March 6, 2015 at 11:21 am 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below.

Actress (Robert Greene)

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As if Sirk and the Maysles brothers had an anxiety-ridden child (don’t ask about that procreation process), Actress is one of the few functional “boundary-blurring” documentaries of late because Robert Greene, a keen observer of movement, had discovered a perfect subject and the best story for it. At one moment intimate and comfortable, at the next an unpleasant dive into an emotional maelstrom, its shape makes one wonder that the tired “we’re all actors” maxim would be tried anywhere but the documentary format. – Nick N.

Where to Stream: iTunes

Buzzard (Joel Potrykus)

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In an episode of my podcast, The Cinephiliacs, colleague Vadim Rizov noted a humorous but mostly essential statement when describing his disappointment with the movement of the Duplass Brothers into more mainstream territory: “Bros need independent movies, too.” Most depictions of “bro culture” have depended on some of the loudest names in Hollywood — Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, and Seth Rogen among others. The problem is that these bro movies often seem to focus on the pleasures and perils of being a bro — a subject only worthy of intermittent screen depiction — and few of them use that milieu to explore other factors. That’s what makes Buzzard, Joel Potrykus’s second feature, one of the most exciting pictures in contemporary American cinema. – Peter L. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott)

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Ridley Scott and the biblical epic seem like an intriguing proposition, but Exodus: Gods and Kings, the latest take on the story of Moses, proves to be a vacuous and curiously empty spectacle. The film may spend most of its running time trying to get the Hebrew people out of Egypt, but in dramatic terms, it’s just wandering in the wilderness. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Faults (Riley Stearns)

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With Sound of My Voice, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Master, and more, filmmakers’ fascination with cults seems to have hit a surge as of late, particularly exploring what it does to people’s psyche and the way that it, in turn, affects the people around them. Not everyone who joins a cult is without family or friends, so what happens when the family you willingly left behind drags you back into their lives? Written and directed by Riley Stearns (who is making his feature film debut at SXSW), Faults follows Ansel (Leland Orser), a cult deprogrammer who is down on his luck. – Bill G. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

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There is a distinctly Americana fascination and connection between director Bennett Miller’s Capote, Moneyball, and Foxcatcher. Centered on a struggling former Olympic wrestler and his unlikely relationship with a bizarre billionaire, the film is less about the actual details of what happened in this real-life tragedy and more about the insidious nature that is derived from excessive wealth and power. The film features a truly powerhouse trio of performances from Steve CarrellMark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum. Eerily paced and unnerving at every turn, the fastidious study of these characters is both enveloping and thought-provoking. – Raffi A.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Continue >>

NYC Weekend Watch: Wim Wenders, ‘Play Time,’ ‘Grey Gardens’ & More

Written by Nick Newman, March 6, 2015 at 11:00 am 

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Since any New York City cinephile has a nearly suffocating wealth of theatrical options, we figured it’d be best to compile some of the more worthwhile repertory showings into one handy list. Displayed below are a few of the city’s most reliable theaters and links to screenings of their weekend offerings — films you’re not likely to see in a theater again anytime soon, and many of which are, also, on 35mm. If you have a chance to attend any of these, we’re of the mind that it’s time extremely well-spent.

BAMCinématek

Paul Newman stars in Hud as the next line of “Black & White ‘Scope” films play, with The Longest Day and a print of The Victors also showing this weekend.

playtime-posterMuseum of the Moving Image

Tati, Powell & Pressburger, Kurosawa, Tashlin, and more play under “See It Big! High and Wide.”

Museum of Modern Art

The Wim Wenders retrospective continues with several features, including the director’s cut of Until the End of the World.

Nitehawk Cinema

A print of the Italian horror film Demons plays on Friday and Saturday at midnight as part of “Nitehawk Nasties.”

“March Brunch: Committed” offers Spellbound, while “Country Brunchin’” brings Critters.

grey-gardens-movie-poster-1975-1020235434Film Forum

The restored Grey Gardens begins its week-long run.

Joseph Losey‘s Boom can be seen on Saturday.

The Music Man screens on Sunday morning.

Anthology Film Archives

Screenwriters and the Blacklist” continues.

Brakhage programs play on Saturday and Sunday, the latter day also bringing experimental cinema from Serbia.

What are you watching this weekend?

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