Posts by Robert Koehler

arts•meme contributor  Robert Koehler is a film critic for Film Comment, Cinema Scope, IndieWire and Cineaste. He contributes film writing to a number of publications, including Variety and Sight & Sound. He has served as director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and AFI Fest, and co-created the ongoing Los Angeles-based film series, “The Films That Got Away,” sponsored by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.


Koehler on Cinema: The Jia “touch”

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The Fifth Generation of Mainland Chinese filmmakers who emerged in the 1980s, such as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, began their careers as rebellious independents, but have settled for roles as state-approved makers of harmless epic period pieces like Zhang’s “The Flowers of War.” (To seal his official bona fides, Zhang masterminded the ultra-nationalist Beijing ...

Koehler on Cinema: Anti-piracy finds a hero in “Captain Phillips”

Film · Language & ideas
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It had to happen. Sooner or later, Hollywood’s breathless, unending campaign against piracy was sure to find movie expression, its ideally useful metaphor. Coinciding roughly with the industry’s propaganda war against the netherworld of downloaders and other ne’er-do-wells, pirates of the classic seafaring variety from Somalia have raided and taken ransom commercial freighters. Sometimes, they’ve ...

Koehler on Cinema: Clips

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African cinema is the most commonly overlooked in almost every corner of the world except France and Italy, where a combination of a tradition of cinephilia along with cultural and colonial ties make these movies a real presence. Here in the U.S., African movies are often treated as beyond exotic, which is ridiculous. The new ...

“Gravity” and the Spirit of Sandra Bullock 1

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For all of its ominous forecasts of artificial intelligence run amok, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a response to an era of great optimism for the prospects of manned space flight and exploration. There was no reason to feel otherwise: the U.S. Apollo missions, ongoing during the making and release of “2001,” and ...

Koehler on Cinema: Clips

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Two of the year’s most interesting film series are either underway or just about to launch, and for no clear reason, the local Los Angeles arts media is ignoring both. Already underway since last weekend is LACMA’s “The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema,” a 13-film survey of the work of the great Mexican cinematographer Gabriel ...

Koehler on Cinema: Porn Yesterday

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I’m told that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 2009 short, “Sparks,” based on Elmore Leonard’s brilliant short story of cat-and-mouse-as-dialogue, is terrific and sharply cast. Gordon-Levitt’s feature debut, “Don Jon,” (The Landmark, Laemmle NoHo 7, Laemmle Claremont 5) lacks a writer of Leonard’s mastery (because the director made the mistake of writing his own script) but confirms that ...

Koehler on Cinema: The Big Idea Movie, Robert Reich Edition

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When it comes to big ideas, movies are usually a poor substitute for books. A few movies are able to put them across in new and meaningful ways; the best in the past decade are David Barison’s and Daniel Ross’ astounding essay film, “The Ister,” on the cultural and intellectual history of the Danube river, ...

Koehler on Cinema: Clips

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A week’s run of the deliriously cataclysmic and violent “Drug War” by Johnnie To is simply not enough. But Cinefamily, bless ‘em, has it through Sept. 26. It’s easily the best of the week’s new releases—and certainly one of the year’s most essential movies. To’s incredible achievement in action mise-en-scene must be seen to be ...

Koehler on Cinema: How to watch movies in Los Angeles and how to watch Los Angeles at the movies 1

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The most important film screening in a weekend full of interesting ones (see this week’s “Clips” column for more on that) is the American Cinematheque’s Friday night presentation of Thom Andersen’s new and improved version of his influential, paradigm-shifting and pretty damn funny essay film, “Los Angeles Plays Itself, ” on how the city has ...

Koehler on Cinema: “Rush” It Ain’t

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In lieu of original material, Hollywood continues to borrow (Spike Lee’s “Old Boy”), copy (the sequel tsunami that never ends), or adapt better non-Hollywood writers (“Life of Crime”). Or, in a favored mode of where we are right now, which is the start of the official Oscar season, turn actually interesting true stories into hopefully ...