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In Theaters: "Bad Lieutenant," "Broken Embraces," "Twilight"...

The Auteurs Daily

Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage

"The German" is returning to Germany. Even if only for a couple of weeks. "Werner Herzog, one of the most important filmmakers of Auteur Cinema, will be the President of the International Jury at the Berlinale 2010," begins yesterday's announcement. At the moment, he's in Thessaloniki, where he'll be giving a Master Class tomorrow, and of course, it was just a couple of months ago that he was in Venice, premiering not one but two new films: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, screening for the press today in New York, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, opening in theaters today.

"Of course, the film has no relation to the 1992 Abel Ferrara film, except it involves a police detective who is 'bad,' insofar as he dopes, gambles and isn't very effective as a cop," writes Michael Atkinson for IFC. "In the first film, the character's self-immolation was an existential passion; here it's... I don't know what it is. Herzog was brought on as a director-for-hire (which is very wrong, in the grand cultural scheme of things), after screenwriter William Finkelstein (Doogie Howser, NYPD Blue) was enlisted to sorta, kinda, remake Ferrara's film, the producers' initial intention. Star Nicolas Cage decided it would take place in New Orleans because he likes the city. One head-shaker after another.... Bad Lieutenant is an anemic shadow of Ferrara's knucklebuster, but for the most part, it is an animal apart, bristling with a set of conflicting and half-baked agendas, and as spellbinding as a Ferris wheel coming off its pylons."

More from Michael J Anderson, Jeannette Catsoulis (NPR), Fernando F Croce (Slant), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Cheryl Eddy (San Francisco Bay Guardian), David Edelstein (New York), Jürgen Fauth, J Hoberman (Voice), Eric Hynes (Reverse Shot), JR Jones (Chicago Reader), Glenn Kenny, Michelle Orange (Movieline), Christopher Orr (New Republic), Nick Schager, Andrew Schenker, AO Scott (New York Times), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times), Dana Stevens (Slate), Scott Tobias (AV Club), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Earlier: Reviews from Venice, Telluride and Toronto.

"Right now, Cage's perceived standing among screen actors is as questionable as his hairline," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. "As early as 1998, Sean Penn decided that his old friend was 'no longer an actor... he's more like a performer.' And just this year, Entertainment Weekly asked, 'Nicolas Cage: Artist or Hack?' As with Style vs Substance and Humanism vs Condescension, such Manichaeism betrays the vagaries of art. Cage is Artist and Hack, and he still gives more pleasure from one of his startling horselaughs or kabuki outbursts than most actors do at their most resourceful."

"What makes Mr Cage such an unusual screen presence and an even more atypical movie star is that he's habitually very good and very bad from movie to movie, and sometimes scene to scene in a single film," writes the NYT's Manohla Dargis. "Unlike most movie stars, whose stardom is partly predicated on a recognizable, coherent, stable persona and the ability to deliver a similarly coherent, stable performance - George Clooney almost always delivers a George Clooney-worthy turn, no matter how goofy the mustache - Mr Cage is reliably unreliable.... This insistent watchable quality - perhaps the most critical prerequisite of stardom, and certainly more essential to its brightness than either acting talent or even physical beauty - was there from the beginning."

Chris Lee talks with Cage and Herzog for the Los Angeles Times. FirstShowing's Alex Billington interviews producer Alan Polsky. More interviews with Herzog: Walter Addiego (San Francisco Chronicle), Kyle Buchanan (Movieline), Colin Geddes (Twitch), Darrell Hartman (Interview), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Damon Smith (Filmmaker) and Scott Tobias (AV Club).

For Nerve, Phil Nugent lists "Five Reasons Werner Herzog is More Badass Than Chuck Norris."

"[W]ho are the filmmakers willing to take up his mantle of unusually arduous and potentially hazardous shooting?" asks Vadim Rizov, presenting the "Werner Herzog, Jr" awards at IFC, where Matt Singer lists "Seven More 'Remakes' We'd Love Werner Herzog To Direct."

Online listening. Aaron Hillis at GreenCine Daily: "In my third annual chat with Herzog, we sat down to discuss the importance of self-irony, playing homage to Klaus Kinski, what he's looking for in applicants of his first-ever Rogue Film School seminar, and why he has yet to bring his distinctive voice to an audiobook version of his filmmaking diary Conquest of the Useless." Herzog's also a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Online viewing. David Poland talks with Herzog and Eva Mendes.

Pedro Almodóvar

PopMatters launched a new series this week, Director Spotlight, and their first subject is Pedro Almodóvar. The five-part special opens with a primer before turning to essays from Alex Ramon on "Referencing & Recycling," Courtney Young on the "Quintessentially Pansexual Oeuvre," JM Suarez on a few of Almodóvar's female roles and Jaime Esteve on Almodóvar as a European auteur before wrapping with Matt Mazur's interview.

"Can there be such a thing as exuberant melancholy?" asks AO Scott in the NYT. "I can't think of another way to describe the spirit of Broken Embraces, Pedro Almodóvar's latest film, the title of which carries a telling hint of paradox. It is grave and effervescent, tender and cruel.... Like All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education and Volver - not a bad decade's work, by the way - Broken Embraces leaves the viewer in a contradictory state, a mixture of devastation and euphoria, amusement and dismay that deserves its own clinical designation. Call it Almodóvaria, a syndrome from which some of us are more than happy to suffer."

More from Richard Corliss (Time), Marcy Dermansky, Anthony Lane (New Yorker), Rob Nelson (Voice), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Benjamin Sutton (L) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Earlier: Reviews from the New York Film Festival.

Interviews with Almodóvar: Andrew O'Hehir (Salon) and Aaron Hillis (IFC). And on video, Eric Hynes in the latest "Reverse Shot Talkie."

Charles Taylor at IFC on Broken Embraces and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds: "What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them."

"Everything I Know About Love I Learned From... Pedro Almodóvar," claims Phil Nugent at Nerve.

Online "No, really" tip. Acquarello's posted a shot of Almodóvar's cup set design for Illy's 2009 Art Collection series.

Twilight: New Moon

"The big tease turns into the long goodbye in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the juiceless, near bloodless sequel about a teenage girl and the sparkly vampire she, like, totally loves," writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT, and that's pretty much the way the wind blows throughout nearly all the reviews: Seth Abramovitch (Movieline), Simon Abrams (Slant), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), David Edelstein (New York), Nancy Gibbs (Time), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Mike Goodridge (Screen), Philippa Hawker (Age), Genevieve Koski (AV Club), Drew McWeeny (Hitfix), Tim Robey (Telegraph), Mike Russell (Oregonian), Anna Smith (TONY), Dana Stevens (Slate, where Christopher Beam explains why "vampire movies always break all the vampire rules"), Kenneth Turan (LAT) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon).

The build-up: Vanity Fair's Twilight collection. Time Out London's. Time's Lev Grossman profiles Stephenie Meyer, who's written the books on which the franchise is being mounted. For the Los Angeles Times, Gina McIntyre talks with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg and producer Wyck Godfrey. Brooks Barnes profiles Kristen Stewart for the NYT. Interviews with director Chris Weitz: Will Lawrence (Telegraph), Gina McIntyre (LAT) and Alexandra Wolfe (New York).

Anne Helen Petersen considers "The Politics of Twilight Web Traffic." The Philadelphia Weekly's Matt Prigge lists "Six Emo Vampires." Online viewing tip. At the National Book Awards ceremony on Wednesday night, Galleycat's Jason Boog asked nominees for their takes on Meyer's series.



"Besides Jia Zhangke and Olivier Assayas, who understand commercial exchange as being inseparable from life, and see business as transforming but not necessarily debasing human relations, most filmmakers approach globalization as an existential death-match between capitalism and the human soul," writes Eric Hynes for indieWIRE. "Hollywood doesn't have a monopoly on fortune cookie existentialism though, as freshly exhibited by Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson's dismaying career killer Mammoth." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Mark Asch (L), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Noel Murray (AV Club), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and James van Maanen. Aaron Hillis talks with Moodysson for IFC.

"In The Missing Person, filmmaker Noah Buschel plunks his 40s style gumshoe down in the middle of 21st-century America, not merely to wring a few anachronistic yuks from the fish-out-of-water premise, but to suggest an essential divide in consciousness between two eras - in this case not so much the 60-odd years between model and setting but, instead, the several years dividing the present from the new century's first great tragedy." Andrew Schenker in Slant.

"Michael Shannon's perpetual watchability makes it go down easy," offers Justin Stewart in Reverse Shot. More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Nicolas Rapold (TONY), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and James van Maanen. IndieWIRE interviews Buschel.

My Dear Enemy

"South Korean director Hong Sang-soo's films haven't yet attained steady American distribution, but they have had an impact on younger Korean filmmakers," writes Steve Erickson for Artforum. "Lee Yoon-ki's My Dear Enemy (2008) is perhaps the first prominent Hong-influenced film to reach stateside screens, and it actually shows more of a flair for light comedy than Hong himself achieved in his latest film, Like You Know It All (2009)." More from Mike Hale (NYT) and Andrew Schenker (Voice). At MoMA for one week.

"Propelled by an eccentric cast of characters and increasingly seamy locations, Fix dashes headlong through Los Angeles with a little charm and a lot of verve," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT. More from David Chute (Voice), Nick Schager (Slant) and James van Maanen.

"The writer-director James DeMonaco is a native Staten Islander, and if his film Staten Island, New York is an ode to what it calls [the forgotten stepchild of Manhattan,' it is a barbed and quirky one," writes Andy Webster in the NYT. "Using a nonlinear, Tarantino-esque narrative, Mr DeMonaco adroitly weaves violence, absurdity and sentiment, even an environmental consciousness, into a modest, appealing fable." More from Nick Pinkerton in the Voice.

"An awkward European-American co-production, Planet 51 mainly succeeds at reminding you of all the better movies that inspired it," writes Brian Miller in the Voice. More from Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Stephen Holden (NYT), Adam Keleman (Slant) and Tasha Robinson (AV Club).

"The Blind Side isn't just awful and boring. It's actively evil," argues Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Aaron Cutler (Slant), David Fear (TONY), Jette Kernion (Cinematical), Josh Levin (Slate), AO Scott (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (LAT), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Armond White (New York Press).

The NYT's AO Scott: "Precious and The Blind Side come from different corners of the movie cosmos, and their simultaneous appearance is entirely accidental. But it is nonetheless possible - and, I think, useful - to imagine these movies in dialogue with each other, taking part in a conversation on race that the American public is always supposedly eager to have, but never right now."

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David, I love the images you pull out to talk about these movies. The Twilight pic is perfect.
Thanks, Erin. The search is half the fun, and I’m not always so lucky as to stumble across an outright illustration of the reviews!
A lot of critics hate Twilight because it’s about good-looking people. Film critics are, by and large, not a bunch of lookers.

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