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Camera Lucida, Criticine, "Last Airbender"

Thanks to Neil Young for directing me to the inaugural issue of Camera Lucida, a new multi-lingual film magazine from Montenegro.

"Whilst Yugoslav Montenegro could boast of rich film culture, flourishing with a number of internationally acclaimed film authors, cinematographers, writers, actors and many internationally awarded film works," writes editor Maja Bogojević, "the disintegration of Yugoslavia led, in Montenegro and its neighboring newly-created countries alike, to the collapse of film institutions, film centres, studios, and cinemas." Camera Lucida steps into the void and "pays homage, in Božena Jelušić's text, to one of the most controversial Yugoslav film authors and, arguably, the most underestimated by local film criticism — Montenegrin film director Živko Nikolić; the section of Balkanfocus explores and contextualises the possibilities of (un)revolutionary and (un)innovative filmmaking in local settings of Romanian, Bulgarian and Serbian new new film wave; gives an intimate and phenomenological account by Igor Koršič on his encounter with Andrej Tarkovsky in Retrospectives; offers video-reports from a small and lively Split festival of Mediterranean Film; provides thorough discussions on the new issues opened by 3D technology in Aleksandar Luj Todorović's in-depth, insightful and expert analysis; interviews the veteran Yugoslav filmmaker, Branko Baletić, who is, after a long pause, back on filming location; and, last but not least, opens space in Mala educacion? (pun intended in clear reference to Pedro Almodóvar's film) to debut, but daring, expressions of those systematically overlooked and unheard by the elite establishment and mainstream discourses — film and visual arts students."

Also: Ronald Bergan on "the proper tools to 'read' a film," Andreas Ströhl on "deciphering the meaning of films" and Neil Young on Mike Ott's Littlerock.

From Ben Slater comes news of updates to Criticine, dedicated to Southeast Asian cinema, a labor of love from the late critic Alexis Tioseco — one of the updates, in fact, is Davide Cazzaro's interview with Alexis, recorded in November 2008 in Manila. And there are five new Love Letters.



"The Last Airbender?" asks AO Scott in the New York Times. "Let's hope so, though there is a scene at the very end that gestures toward a sequel. After 94 minutes — was that all? I could have sworn it was days — of muddy 3D imagery and muddled storytelling, the idea that this is just the first Last Airbender seems either delusionally optimistic or downright cruel. An astute industry analyst of my acquaintance, who is 9 and an admirer of the Nickelodeon animated series on which the movie is based, offered a two-word diagnosis of its commercial prospects on the way out of the theater: 'They're screwed.'"

At, Bruce Bennett notes that the original series deserves better: "Smart, tough, compassionate, dynamic, visionary, and funny, the show ranks among those precious and few surprise TV discoveries like HBO's Sopranos and SyFy Channel's Battlestar Galactica reboot that can reaffirm your faith in mainstream genre storytelling."

Oh, and the director of this attempt at launching a new franchise is M Night Shyamalan, who "once again assumes reverence for a story simultaneously simpleminded and preposterous," writes Time Out Chicago's Ben Kenigsberg. "Although the scenario lacks the organic lunacy of Unbreakable and Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender is immediately recognizable as a Shyamalan film thanks to its wall-to-wall solemnity ('Do not kill the avatar! He will just be reborn again,' shouts the admiral played by [Aasif] Mandvi, Daily Show correspondent and now a Razzie frontrunner), its unerring ear for B-movie cheesiness ('This is probably some Fire Nation trick!') and the overall assumption that what's happening onscreen is of messianic importance."

More from Richard Corliss (Time), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Patrick McGavin, Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Nick Schager (Slant), Matthew Sorrento (Bright Lights), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). Interviews with Shyamalan: Lane Brown (Vulture) and Steven James Snyder (Techland).



Today's just flush with notables via The Daily Notebook Twitter feed (RSS), some of it meaty, some of it light and summery. Top images: From Poemas del río Wang's collection of Tarkovsky's Polaroids.

Camera Lucida is not a film magazine from Serbia. It is from Montenegro.

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