Of all the movies that have opened this weekend, the one that's generated the most interesting press by far is Page One: Inside The New York Times. The usual round of promotional interviews, for example, turns out to have been not so usual. Talking with writer-director-cinematographer Andrew Rossi and co-writer Kate Novack, a husband-and-wife team of a documentary filmmaker and a former media reporter, Eric Hynes acknowledges that his piece for the Voice can't help but lay on another layer of meta. Right off, he has Novack commenting on Page One's focus on the NYT media desk: "It was journalists reporting on journalism, and we were working as journalists covering that."
So it goes in other interviews: Drew Taylor's with Rossi for the Playlist; Stephen Saito's with Rossi and NYT media reporter David Carr, indisputably the star of Page One, for IFC; Sarah Ellison's with Gay Talese, author of the 1969 classic, The Kingdom and the Power: Behind the Scenes at The New York Times: The Institution That Influences the World, for Vanity Fair. And then there's the interview that's gone viral, Aaron Sorkin's with Carr for, yes, Interview — followed by Tom McGeveran's profile of Carr for Capital New York, which opens with Carr's thoughts on the Interview interview.
The biggest question in this hall of mirrors ever since Page One premiered at Sundance has been: What'll the NYT do when it comes time for a review? Michael Kinsley is the answer to that question. Former editor of The New Republic, former co-host of Crossfire, founding editor of Slate and currently an advisor for Bloomberg View, Kinsley knows from media. He claims, though, to "know almost nothing about how The New York Times works. Having seen Page One, I don't know much more than I did before…. The movie's main theme, no surprise, is the struggle of The Times to survive in the age of the Internet. But it does little to illuminate that struggle, preferring instead a constant parade of people telling the camera how dreadful it would be if The Times did not survive. True, of course, but boring to the point of irritation after five or six repetitions. Like a shopper at the supermarket without a shopping list, Page One careers around the aisles picking up this item and that one, ultimately coming home with three jars of peanut butter and no 2-percent milk…. The Times deserves a better movie, and so do you. See His Girl Friday again."
But Stuart Klawans, writing for Film Comment, argues that "Rossi and Novack abandon a chronological structure for an expository one. But there's a second structure built into the film as well — that of the old-style platoon movie." What's more, "the platoon structure and the expository structure of Page One combine into a salvation narrative, for David Carr and for The New York Times. I make that statement with no mockery intended…. It's an honestly hopeful film."
More from J Hoberman (Voice), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant, 3/4), Peter Martin (Twitch), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Eli Sanders (Stranger), Matt Singer (IFC), Dana Stevens (Slate), Scott Tobias (AV Club, B), Ryan Wells (Cinespect) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 8.5/10). Related: "Life and times in American journalism," a Bookforum roundup.
"Our therapeutic culture is lousy with stories of people struggling to spin childhood traumas into something that leaves the world a better place than the one that damaged them, but I've never seen a film in which the link between a trauma and its triumphant transmutation is as vivid as in Buck." New York's David Edelstein: "Cindy Meehl's shambling yet uncannily beautiful documentary tells the story of Buck Brannaman, a rangy, bow-legged cowboy who travels the country 40 weeks a year hosting four-day clinics. Brannaman was an adviser on the film of The Horse Whisperer and the moniker is often attached to him, but I'd call him the Horse Empath. He sees himself through the animals' eyes and feels their childlike skittishness, their primal fear…. The pace is transfixing. Other than The Black Stallion, horse movies tend to be choppy, edited around the animals, so their natural rhythms disappear into the space between the frames. Meehl, in her directing debut, is attuned to the rhythms of Buck, who's attuned to the horses. 'Everything's a dance,' he explains from atop the saddle — and suddenly he and the horse have launched into a sideways canter so graceful, so unified, that Fred Astaire would stop and salute."
"From the moment he gets on his horse ('Well, I'm off to the office') and through the hushed interludes and excursions down highways and into the past, he keeps you rapt," writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT. "Nonhorse people may find themselves as wowed by Mr Brannaman's techniques as the lifelong horsewoman I know who, mid-viewing, blurted out, 'No way!' Way!"
More from Sam Adams (AV Club, B), Mark Holcomb (Voice), Craig Kennedy (4/5), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Susanna Locasio (Filmmaker), Mary Pols (Time), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 8/10) and Andrew Schenker (Slant, 1.5/4). IFC's Matt Singer notes that, "as you'll see in our interview from South by Southwest 2011 with the star and his director, Brannaman is also one hell of a snappy dresser." Nigel M Smith talks with Brannaman for indieWIRE. More backstory from — yep! — David Carr (NYT).
"I don't really know which way to go with Kidnapped, the ultra-formalist, and utterly riveting, new horror movie from first-time Spanish director Miguel Ángel Vivas," begins Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "For some genre buffs and cinephiles, Kidnapped is likely to feel like the distillation of certain themes in horror-thriller filmmaking, including the European takeover of a quintessentially American form and a return to austerity and economy instead of grotesque sloppiness. Composed in just 12 unnerving hand-held traveling shots (they're at eye-level but not point-of-view, and not excessively wobbly), this taut home-invasion drama has an obvious if complicated debt to Michael Haneke's legendary Funny Games, but also pulls in various other influences, ranging from David Fincher's Panic Room to the split-screen technique of Richard Fleischer's 1968 Boston Strangler. OK, that's one side of the ledger. The other side is this: Screw Human Centipede and Audition and Last House on the Left. The near-real-time and entirely too realistic terror of Kidnapped makes it one of the toughest horror flicks I've ever sat through."
But for Nick Pinkerton, writing in the Voice, this is "a particularly doltish movie. The long takes and lack of theatrical affect are presumably meant to heighten the realism by dispensing with film-fiction artifice, but in the process, everything that might lure a viewer — the seduction of style and plot or an engagement with characters — is forgotten."
"Kidnapped can be breathtaking, but it can also be like a purer kind of torture porn — one that revels not in gore, but in the unduly cruel mistreatment of its characters," finds Henry Stewart in the L. More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Noel Murray (AV Club, B) and James van Maanen. At Brooklyn's ReRun Gastropub Theater.
Bart Testa for Cinema Scope: "That Green Lantern is a painfully confused and overwrought film is obvious at a glance: the plotting is uneven, errant, repetitive and sluggish, larded with metaphysical hooey and featuring too many ceremonial set-pieces on a faraway planet and too many pointless trips to the balcony of the designated love interest (the inaptly named Blake Lively). Even in a summer that has already seen the Marvel-derived Thor thumping across the screen looking for his hammer, Green Lantern is too much, and without that film's surprisingly humourous emphasis on its titular hero's blond, amiable stupidity. No matter its third-tier hero and general outlandishness, the salient ingredients of Green Lantern — briskly efficient action veteran Martin Campbell, who refreshed the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale (2006), and lead Ryan Reynolds, a strong comedian whose bravado and intensity carried the stark premise of Buried (2010) — bore some promise that has been decisively wasted. Green Lantern is not just a bad comic book movie, but an incontinent one — an expenditure of a potential franchise on its first go."
"Even by the standards of the current run of mediocre comic-book movies, this one stands out for its egregious shoddiness," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "Its characters, dialogue, and pacing recall a destined-to-be-canceled Saturday morning cartoon from the early 80s or possibly an extended Hasbro infomercial."
More from Ed Champion, Martyn Conterio (Little White Lies), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2.5/4), David Edelstein (New York), Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 2/4), Robert Horton (Herald), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 2/5), Karina Longworth (Voice), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 1/4), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph, 2/5), Scott Tobias (AV Club, D+), Gabe Toro (Playlist), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), Scott Weinberg (Twitch) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6/10). Brooks Barnes profiles Reynolds for the NYT.
"Gavin Wiesen's first film, as passive and vanilla as its title, continues the numbing trendlet begun in 2008 with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: dramatizing the stupefying dullness of privileged white teenagers in New York City." Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "Crafted not to give the slightest offense, The Art of Getting By makes the great — and even the mediocre — teen movies of 30 years ago, like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Fame, and Foxes, look even more radical in comparison, with their depiction of obnoxious, horny, property-destroying teens. Kids in those movies also had jobs and the tiniest sense of the world outside their neighborhood. Neither George [Freddie Highmore] nor Sally [Emma Roberts] has to clock in anywhere; their cab ride across the bridge to visit Dustin's studio in Brooklyn makes a day trip to Kings County seem like the most exotic voyage ever undertaken. Thoughtful movies about adolescent misfits are still being made, as the upcoming Terri and Pariah prove. But Wiesen's film, too timid to even be labeled 'square,' brooks no messiness, no melodrama, no blemishes — in short, nothing true to adolescence at all." More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2.5/4), Logan Hill (Vulture), Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle, 0.5/5), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 1/5), Peter Martin (Twitch), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 4.5/10), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C-), Nick Schager (Slant, 0.5/4) and AO Scott (NYT).
Noel Murray at the AV Club: "Most viewers should find the documentary Battle for Brooklyn gripping and provocative, no matter their opinions about eminent domain, historic preservation, or public dollars going to support private development. But there's no doubt what side co-directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley are on. They spent eight years following a group of Brooklynites who were trying to thwart — or at least modify — plans to displace longtime residents and businesses to build a basketball arena and skyscrapers. Throughout those eight years, Galinsky and Hawley focused on Daniel Goldstein, an apartment-dweller who joined the organization Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and became a committed, self-taught activist. The directors also talked to some of the politicians and businessmen advocating for the Atlantic Yards project, and to some of the community members stumping for 'jobs, housing, and hoops.' But for the most part, this is Goldstein's and Develop Don't Destroy's story." More from Neil Genzlinger (NYT) and Benjamin Mercer (Voice). James van Maanen talks with Galinsky and Hawley.
Mr Popper's Penguins, "directed with bounce and snap by Mark Waters, stands as a comeback of sorts for Jim Carrey, who mugs and prances and does funny voices and manages not to be upstaged by a half-dozen flightless birds," writes AO Scott in the NYT. The film "signifies an important stage in Mr Carrey's maturation, or at least his transition from nitwit man-child to goofy dad. Just about every male screen comedian must negotiate this passage at some point: Eddie Murphy managed pretty well for a while, with the Dr Dolittle movies. Adam Sandler struggled with Grown Ups, though that film's box office returns suggested that the moviegoing masses did not mind. And there is not a lot to object to in Mr Popper's Penguins, a mildly amusing specimen of a genre that has produced some of the most unspeakable atrocities of recent cinema." More from Simon Abrams (Slant, 1/4), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 1.5/4), Logan Hill (Vulture), Craig D Lindsey (Nashville Scene), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Nick Schager (Voice), Alison Willmore (AV Club, D+), Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 7/10) and Mark Zhuravsky (Playlist). Elisa Osegueda talks with Carrey for Movies.com.
VERY BRIEFLY INDEED
"We probably need another prison drama like a shiv to the chest, but R has at least a few things going for it," writes Andrew Schenker in the Voice. "Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer's film keeps its perspective closely tied to its lead character(s), focuses on details both queasy and quotidian, and explodes in moments of fierce intensity." More from Stephen Holden (NYT).
"The documentary Jig presents a world that approaches child pageantry in its self-contained weirdness," writes Paul Schrodt in Slant. "Dancers from all different countries — followed from training to competition at the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland — are seen as social outcasts with a fierce and at times inexplicable commitment to their craft…. Jig doesn't twist itself into the self-important, exploitative think piece on youth ambition that Spellbound was, but it does convincingly suggest that its subjects are in it for more than sport." More from Andrew Schenker (Voice).
For Boston Globe readers, Ty Burr has suggestions for the weekend, while Criterion's round up of happenings covers the globe.
IN THE UK
"Whenever I watch a Cameron Diaz movie these days — such as Bad Teacher — I don't see the drama, I don't laugh at the comedy," writes John Patterson in the Guardian. "Instead of a movie actress I once liked mildly for a season or two, I now only see an abstraction of the financial verities of modern movie superstardom. Her movies remind me of nothing so much as talent agency memos and aggressive star-packaging, multimillion-dollar pay-or-play deals, back-end points and foreign-market percentages. She's in that top tier of stars among whom the (allegedly) choicest scripts circulate incestuously until one of them jumps ship or another climbs aboard. And it never really matters who ends up starring, with the result that they all — Roberts, Aniston, Jolie, Mendes, Diaz et al, plus their no-less-replaceable male equivalents — become essentially the same actor." More on Bad Teacher from Emma Dibdin (Little White Lies), Tim Robey (Telegraph, 2/5) and Matt Wolf (Arts Desk).
Kieron Corless introduces an interview for Sight & Sound: "Matthew Porterfield's Putty Hill was one of the most galvanising, piercing cinema experiences on last year's festival circuit, a film incarnating all the hard-earned virtues but none of the formulaic, ingratiating vices of US indie filmmaking à la Sundance Lab." At the ICA in London.