What with Cannes and all, this roundup of what the critics are saying about the films opening this weekend is a day late, but at least we've got Robin Hood out of the way.
"Suppose what we call 'parenting' is just a situation in which overgrown kids take care of smaller ones?" J Hoberman in the Voice: "That's the underlying premise of Daddy Longlegs — a funny, fantastic, genuinely alarming quasi-autobiographical cheapster by twentysomething New York brothers Josh and Benny Safdie."
"While the Safdies acknowledge that Daddy Longlegs is an honest grappling with their own sometimes tumultuous upbringing in New York City, one immediate factor distinguishes it as a movie instead of mere creative therapy," writes Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail. "That factor is Ronald Bronstein." He "brings a severity to his performance that will have many viewers shouting at the screen. Bronstein plays Lenny, a 30-something projectionist and father of 9-year-old Sage and 7-year-old Frey (Sage and Frey Ranaldo — yes, hipster trivia heads, they are indeed the offspring of Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and artist Leah Singer, who also appear in the film). Lenny has inherited his sons for two weeks, yet he can't manage to tame his own roiling state-of-being in order to be an even temporary grounding force in their lives. Well intentioned though he may be, Lenny is more playmate than father, which is the exact opposite of what these kids need."
"Mr Bronstein, a filmmaker whose Frownland is a minor masterpiece of loneliness and misery, helped edit Daddy Longlegs and brings the Safdies' idea of their father to rich and terrifying life," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "He never winks, pulls back or otherwise indicates any desire to be liked, which is entirely in keeping with the character's narcissism. He is completely appalling, and also completely himself, a kind of mad, disturbing integrity that is both matched and mitigated by the honesty of this lovely, hair-raising film."
"Jamie Stuart and I visited Josh and Benny Safdie at their Red Bucket Films studio on Tuesday to talk about their new film Daddy Longlegs, guerrilla marketing, and other things," blogs Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. "He shot and edited, I interviewed, and this is our conversation."
You can also download a QuickTime version from Jamie's site.
Steve Dollar (Wall Street Journal), Molly Friedman (Interview) and Dennis Lim (NYT) meet the Safdies, too.
"After nearly a year since its premiere at the Quinzaine — where it was unjustly passed over for prizes — Josh and Benny's first co-directed feature wins its first major award in Lisbon," reported Robert Koehler a few days ago from IndieLisboa 2010, where he was a member of the jury — and he's got pix.
More reviews: Chuck Bowen (Slant), Aaron Hillis (Time Out New York), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Henry Stewart (L) and James van Maanen. At the IFC Center through Thursday.
Also in New York, but at Anthology Film Archives and only through tomorrow, is Peter Watkins's Punishment Park (1970). On Friday, Glenn Kenny wrote here in The Daily Notebook, "It's one of the film's whose influence is all the more impressive given how infrequently it was actually seen, which is another reason this theatrical engagement is so crucial." More from Mark Asch (L) and J Hoberman (Voice).
Maya Deren's Legacy: Women and Experimental Film is on at MoMA through October 4 and, in her overview for the Voice, Melissa Anderson notes that the program includes "six of her shorts plus her footage of Voudon rituals in Haiti, organized and compiled after her death into Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, juxtaposed with a sampling of work by three filmmakers on whom she had an enormous impact: Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer, and Su Friedrich."
Romero! is on at BAMcinematek today and tomorrow; also in the Voice, Nick Pinkerton notes that the "proverbial overlooked gem" is Monkey Shines (1988).
More roundups of local goings on not in New York: JR Jones (Chicago Reader), Susan King (Los Angeles Times) and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
"With movies like Riff-Raff, Raining Stones, and Ladybird Ladybird in the early 90s, British director Ken Loach carved out a distinctive niche by fusing social realism with human comedy, adding a spoonful of sugar to make his class politics go down." Scott Tobias at the AV Club: "Later in the decade, imitators like The Full Monty, Waking Ned Devine, and Billy Elliot found great commercial success in scaling back the politics while keeping the working-class backdrops more or less intact; at their worst, they suffered a serious case of the cutes. Now everything has come full circle: Following a run of serious dramas like The Wind That Shakes the Barley and It's a Free World..., Loach becomes his own pale imitator with Looking for Eric, a wispy little comedy that uses fantasy to gloss over even the darkest and most intractable problems."
More from Mark Asch (L), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant, three out of four stars), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, three out of five stars), AO Scott (NYT), Matt Zoller Seitz (IFC), Dana Stevens (Slate), Justin Stewart (Reverse Shot), James van Maanen and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6½, presumably on a scale of ten). Listening. IFC's Matt Singer and Alison Willmore examine "the many ways in which fans and fan culture have been represented on-screen, some good, most bad, a few downright mean."
"Best Worst Movie is a love letter to Troll 2, that 1990 paragon of crappy cinema," writes Nick Schager. "And like all love letters, the documentary – directed by Troll 2's child star, Michael Stephenson – is a warm, jovial and decidedly uncritical look at both the film and its rabid fans."
"Troll 2 is hardly the only film these days to have built a cult following on its so-bad-it's-good status," notes Dave Itzkoff in the NYT. "That same quality has turned recent amateur efforts like The Room and Birdemic into unexpected hits on the midnight screening circuit. But Best Worst Movie makes a bolder assertion: For Mr Stephenson and his Troll 2 colleagues the documentary is an act of reclamation — an effort to make both sense of a senseless film and an argument that no movie with a fan following can be totally without value."
"Stephenson is too close to it all," argues Keith Uhlich in TONY. "[H]e's never able to truly dig below the cult flick's frenzy, to examine the very real pain of both the film's makers and the audience that takes rabid, gleeful delight in their folly. This is more of an authorized road show tour, in which everyone's edges are smoothed away while the phenomenon, unchecked and unexplored, swallows them whole."
More from Simon Abrams (Slant), Sam Adams (Salon), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and James van Maanen. Listening. At GreenCine Daily, Aaron Hillis talks with Stephenson "about his personal take on the 20-year incubation of Troll 2's fandom, the power of the collective audience, the cult of anti-celebrity, and parlaying a terrible stain on one's résumé into something positive." More interviews with Stephenson: indieWIRE, Scott Macaulay (Filmmaker), ST VanAirsdale (Movieline) and Yvonne Villarreal (LAT).
"[W]ill collectors and curators who have long viewed [Shirin] Neshat as a critic of repressive Iran turn against her as her criticism shifts to the role the US has played there?" asks David D'Arcy before turning to his interview in the New York Observer. "Women Without Men, the debut feature by the hyper-biennialized video artist, adapts a magic realist 1990 novel by Shahmush Parsipur that is banned in Iran. It's set in 1953, the year when Iran's first elected prime minister attempted to nationalize the country's British-run oil industry. In response, the Central Intelligence Agency and British counterparts engineered a coup that returned the Western-leaning Shah of Iran to power. 'My belief,' explained Ms Neshat, 'is that the 1953 coup paved the groundwork for the Islamic Revolution, and the beginning of the antagonism between the US and Iran.'"
Alexandra Roxo talks with her, too, for Hammer to Nail. Blogging for the New York Review of Books, Sarah Kerr recommends watching Turbulent, a nine-minute work, online. More on Women from Ernest Hardy (Voice), Stephen Holden (NYT), Noel Murray (AV Club), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and Benjamin Sutton (L).
"Q'orianka Kilcher's out-of-nowhere performance as Pocahontas in 2005's The New World was one of the best (and least appreciated) debuts in film history," argues Matt Zoller Seitz at IFC.com. "Largely ignored by critics groups (much like the film itself), it was a near-miraculous first-time lead performance, so carefully modulated yet natural that it might have spurred some viewers to assume that Kilcher was just a natural-born camera subject. The 19th century historical drama Princess Kaiulani — an account of the life of the last princess of Hawaii — puts the lie to such assumptions."
"The film is best suited for young adults who need an excellent transition from The Princess and the Frog to Precious, from total fantasy to something that at least recognizes the existence of the real." Charles Mudede in the Stranger: "In this respect, Princess Kaiulani is much like Holes, a young-adult film that dealt with the history of American racism and interracial sex."
More from Mike Hale (NYT), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Tasha Robinson (AV Club), Nick Schager (Slant) and Keith Uhlich (TONY).
"In Touching Home, Ed Harris, an actor almost incapable of sounding a false dramatic note, gives a deeply affecting portrayal of a homeless alcoholic with a gambling habit living in Northern California," writes Stephen Holden in the NYT. In the Voice, Nick Pinkerton notes that its "identical twin screenwriters, Noah and Logan Miller, direct themselves, frequently shirtless... Incidentally, the film has an Inspirational True Story (and tie-in book) behind it, which comes across not at all in the rather formulaic stuff that's actually onscreen." More from Ed Gonzalez in Slant.
"Wes Anderson has much to answer for," sighs Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "Nothing is more deadly than curdled whimsy, and Anderson's cultishly revered oeuvre has inspired more than its share of mirth gone awry, like Sol Tryon's oppressively twee dark comedy The Living Wake." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Andrew Schenker (Slant). Caroline Bankoff talks with Jesse Eisenberg for Interview.
Stephen Garrett in TONY on TiMER: "Male geeks may find it curiously exhilarating that a woman filmmaker wrote and directed this philosophical examination of frontier technology — though their clammy-handed thrill may wane a bit when it becomes clear that Jac Schaeffer's preoccupations are less Westworld and more Loveline." More from Neil Genzlinger (NYT), Aaron Hillis (Voice) and Nick Schager (Slant).
"A pleasant, minor-key romance, Darko Lungulov's Here and There has the unadorned integrity of a classic joke," writes Eric Hynes in the Voice. "There's pleasure in watching the conceit unfold, which is sweetened by an unexpectedly poignant payoff." More from Christian Blauvelt (Slant), David Fear (TONY) and Daniel M Gold (NYT).
David Fear in TONY on Entre Nos: "No one would question the bona fides of this autobiographical story, in which cowriter, codirector and actor Paola Mendoza cathartically mines her rough childhood for raw material (the matriarch is based on her own single mother). But while you can't fault this labor of love's conception, you can take issue with its leaden execution." More from Michelle Orange (Voice) and Andy Webster (NYT).
Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "Another movie, not as awful as this one, might one day find better use for the easygoing vibe between Queen Latifah and Common, the stars of Just Wright, a romantic comedy (for the ladies) with basketball and cameoing NBA players in it (for the fellas)." More from Jeffrey M Anderson (Cinematical), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Stephen Holden (NYT), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Lisa Rosman (TONY), Nick Schager (Slant) and Scott Tobias (AV Club). Amy Kaufman talks with Common for the LAT.
Ella Taylor for NPR: "Letters to Juliet — a witless ninny of a movie about Italy, romantic disillusion, Shakespeare, history, more Italy and getting to 'yes' in love and intimacy — appears to have been thrown together with help from some remaindered filmmaking manual: chapters 7 and 8, perhaps, the ones headed 'Pandering for Beginners' and 'Maximizing Your Date-Movie Demographic.'" More from Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), William Goss (Cinematical), Karina Longworth (Voice), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Mary Pols (Time), Nick Schager (Slant) and AO Scott (NYT). For Time, Bryan Alexander talks with poor Vanessa Redgrave.
IN OTHER NEWS
Selections from the June issue of Sight & Sound are up; the film book poll's already been noted.
Mark Duguid argues that "whatever problems British television faces, it's not a deficit of writing talent — a point dangerously obscured in the less-nuanced debate in the press.... That's the contention driving BFI Southbank's two-month Second Coming season, which begins in May — that far from being an age of stagnation, the last decade has witnessed the maturation of a generation of dramatists every bit as talented as their 'golden age' forebears."
Also, Graham Fuller on Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, Ben Walters on Chris Morris's Four Lions, Roger Clarke on Samuel Maoz's Lebanon and Michael Brooke on The Happiest Girl in the World: "It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with recent Romanian cinema that the title of Radu Jude's debut proves deeply, cynically ironic."
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