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Showing posts from April, 2014

The one film you should see this year . . . .

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I absolutely hate that kind of statement.

However, if someone asked you what to see this weekend, you can't do any better than Ida, the new film by Pawel Pawlikowski, which opens Friday in New York at Film Forum and the Lincoln Plaza. It will also be opening in LA and will have a national release shortly after. (If you aren't in NYC, you can find other theaters showing the film here.)

When it closed this year's New York Jewish Film Festival, I wrote the following:

Ida is Pawel Pawlikowski’s fifth feature. The Warsaw-born filmmaker made his previous films (and numerous television documentaries) in the UK, but for this latest work he went home for the first time in his career. Like his best-known early films, Last Resort and My Summer of Love Pawlikowski’s new work centers on the state of mind of a young woman faced with an unexpected fork in her personal road. Like the other two films, Ida draws us into the protagonist’s subjective world slowly, inexorably, with subtl…

And more new movies . . . .

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Two pieces in this week's Jewish Week, my second Tribeca festival round-up and a compelling third feature from the Argentine director (and novelist) Lucia Puenzo. I haven't seen her second film, The Fish Child, but on the strength of XYY and The German Doctor, I have to add her to the list of significant talents at work in the New Argentine Cinema right now. (And I really have to read her novels.)

And one more recommendation: last night the b.w. and I watched Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel. Maier was a completely unknown street photographer who worked as a nanny in the Midwest in the 1950s-'80s. Maloof sort of stumbled across her work during an auction in the winter of 2007and became fascinated by the mystery of a supremely gifted photographer whose name was completely unknown. He posted some of the images he acquired on his blog and began filling in the blanks. The resulting film is occasionally frustrating (Do we really need yet ano…

Tribeca Journal . . .

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I don't know whether the Tribeca Film Festival's documentary selections have generally made a stronger impression on me because there are more of them -- the ESPN sports sidebar tips the numerical balance and the qualitative one as well -- or because they are better than the narrative features, or because I usually end up writing about more of them. Perhaps it's because the fiction films tend to be heavily weighted towards American independent films at their most anodyne, maundering, meandering and maudlin family melodramas.

Whatever the reason, my Monday viewing seems to me typical. The only fiction feature I went to was Dito Montiel's Boulevard, and that provoked an unusual reaction in me: I walked out after 40 minutes. I almost never leave a film before the end credits and when I do it usually has more to do with the audience than the film. But there is no mistaking my reaction of Boulevard. It's one of those low-key, ostensibly sensitive portraits of middle-cla…

Can't Show a Movie Without a Screen

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As some of you may know, I've been a delighted supporter of the campaign to bring movies back to the United Palace, an astonishing 1930 movie theater up in Washington Heights, my neighborhood. We've succeeded in restoring film to the arts agenda in this unique venue and the next program on tap is a real NYC-set classic, the 1933 King Kong*, but the experience of seeing a film in this deco-and-Indian-and-Moorish phantasmagoria would be even more splendid if the theater's screen were replaced. Right now, we're looking at a 50-foot screen, which is pretty impressive, but the damned thing is an antique and desperately needs to be replaced.

If you'd like to pitch in, go here and make a donation. A gem like the United Palace needs a perfect setting.



* King Kong will be screening free on Sunday, April 27 at the United Palace (175th St. and Broadway, Manhattan); doors open at 4 p.m., live stage show at 5, screening at 5:30. Guests include Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author of …

Cine-Journal, Mark II

For five years I turned out this blog, mostly on matters cinematic, on a somewhat regular basis. It wasn't always easy although it was frequently fun. It enabled me to experiment with different registers and tones in my writing, to plug my occasional public appearances, my books and the writings of my friends (including my esteemed and gifted wife) and my politics. Occasionally I would bend the self-imposed rules and comment on matters having nothing to do with the moving image.

For several months now, since October in fact, the blog has been dormant. As I have remarked in this space occasionally, when you are a professional writer -- someone who writes for a living, to pay the bills and feed the cat -- it is a pain in the ass to write for free. Of course, at least in theory, the blog leads to paying gigs or somehow creates other cash-earning opportunities. I have not found that to be the case, although I suppose it did alert some of you to the existence of my books, none of which…