The scourge of Oscar pundits

September 30, 2013

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Here’s what I loved about this year’s Emmy Awards:

Well, nothing, really – I didn’t watch them. I avoid award shows like they were herpes – and they tend to spread just that easily.

But there was one thing I thought of afterward that did make me smile: all the pundits who were so drastically wrong in their predictions about who would and wouldn’t win, because the awards were so unpredictably scattered among various shows in the top categories. (More…)

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New York Film Festival: 51 and counting

September 27, 2013

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The 51st New York Film Festival kicks off tonight, with a lineup that runs the gamut from mainstream action (“Captain Phillips”) to Spike Jonze’s latest, “Her” (his first since critics and the public unjustly crucified his film of “Where the Wild Things Are” for not being a warm and fuzzy cartoon).

I’ve been going to the New York festival almost as long as I’ve been going to the one in Toronto; this will be my 26th NYFF. But it’s intriguing to approach it this year, from a different perspective. (More…)

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‘Inequality for All’: Wonks rule

September 26, 2013

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The Republican noise machine has become such an overpowering presence in our world – manipulating the media with its messages, preying on the fear of the uninformed – that the whole idea of facts (the reality-based world, as someone in George W. Bush’s administration so dismissively put it) seems to have been undermined, or at least distorted.

The famous quote from the late Daniel Moynihan posited that while you may be entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

Yet, somehow, facts – and history and science – have been tarred with the brush of liberalism in the past 30 years. Suddenly, simply offering the facts – about climate change, women’s health, voter fraud or income inequality – is branded a partisan act, as though facts themselves take sides instead of simply stating the obvious.

As a result, Jacob Kornbluth’s illuminating “Inequality for All,” which focuses on economist and scholar Robert Reich, probably won’t reach the audience it needs to. They’re too busy watching Fox News – or CNN or MSNBC, for that matter. The 24-hour cable-news networks no longer care about actual information, unfortunately. (More…)

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‘Muscle Shoals’: Turn it up

September 25, 2013

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Either the title of the documentary “Muscle Shoals” resonates with you – in which case it resonates hard – or you have no idea what it means.

But you should – or you should find out by watching the movie, one of the year’s most entertaining and enriching nonfiction films. When the end of the year comes around, I’ll be hard-pressed to choose between it and “20 Feet from Stardom” as my favorite documentary of the year. (More…)

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‘Don Jon’: Handle your business

September 24, 2013

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As directorial debuts by actors go, “Don Jon” is an auspicious one.

Too many of these projects are vanity affairs, the chance for the actor to try get all the focus. Alternatively, it’s a form of therapy, acted out in front of a camera and broadcast to the world.

But in the case of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who wrote, directed and stars, there’s an actual vision here – a sensibility which will be interesting to follow in the future, assuming he does it again. (More…)

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‘Rush’: No hurry to see it

September 23, 2013

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Ron Howard’s “Rush” is winning all sorts of praise as being daring (for taking on subject matter that apparently isn’t an automatic audience magnet), a throwback to the 1970s (when filmmakers took more risks) and just plain sexy and exciting.

Yet I found it to be exactly as middlebrow and mainstream as most of Howard’s oeuvre. (More…)

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She knows ‘Haute Cuisine’ from the roots up

September 20, 2013

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As you watch actress Catherine Frot remove and slice the salmon-stuffed cabbage in the film “Haute Cuisine,” it seems like an impossibly gorgeous and complicated dish – steaming and gorgeously layered with the pinkish-orange fish and the warm green of the cabbage leaves.

Beautiful? Perhaps. Difficult? Not really, says Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch, upon whose life the French import, opening today in limited release (9/20/13), is based.

“Stuffed cabbage is very simple – but instead of stuffing, you use salmon and seasoning,” she says, sipping a glass of water in the lobby of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. (More…)

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‘Prisoners’: Don’t believe the hype

September 19, 2013

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Denis Villeneuve had two films at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. The better one was called “Enemy.” The one that’s getting the big studio release this week is called “Prisoners.”

Being sold with an adrenalized trailer featuring the histrionics of Hugh Jackman, “Prisoners” is meant to be a thriller. But Villeneuve, who directed the Oscar-nominated “Incendies,” is playing a different game, one that’s both more and, unfortunately, less interesting than it seems. (More…)

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‘C.O.G.’: Ripe for the picking

September 18, 2013

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Coming-of-age stories tend to be about innocents who have the veil pulled from their eyes. Which sort of describes “C.O.G.” – except for the innocent part.

In fact, David (Jonathan Groff) is old enough to have finished grad school. Still, he’s lived a privileged life, relatively speaking, and longs for experience – which is why he winds up on an apple farm in rural Oregon. He is, as the saying goes, ripe for the picking.

And that’s the story of “C.O.G.,” Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film, based on a story by David Sedaris. If this is a coming-of-age film, it’s also a fish-out-of-water tale: the above-it-all intellectual plunged into the reality of the workaday world. (More…)

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Sam Rockwell: Acting at full clip

September 17, 2013

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He haunts the mountains like a phantom, a veteran poacher with deer in his sights and the law on his trail.

Indeed, in “A Single Shot,” opening in limited release Friday and available on VOD, actor Sam Rockwell looks as though he’s right at home as a veteran outdoorsman who keeps meat on the table with his rifle. Nothing, Rockwell says, could be further from the truth.

“I was a city kid,” he says in a telephone interview. (More…)

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