Triumvirate of critical talent to tackle TCM Fest

Film
It’s that time again. arts·meme is launching, for the eighth year running, its special coverage of TCM Classic Film Festival, a whopping four-day spectacular that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud. It’s when the popular television channel moves off the airways and into real time and space, taking over Hollywood Boulevard like the landing of ...

Strange body art of “12 Years a Slave” 2

Film
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Unlike his socially and racially acute art, Steve McQueen’s movies bring out something strange in him. His first film, “Hunger,” carried an overwhelming emotional wallop in its graphic depiction of imprisoned IRA fighter Bobby Sands’ 1982 hunger strike. It went too far, but in good ways—the ways strong art always goes too far. His next, ...

Koehler on Cinema: The Jia “touch”

Film
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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

Film
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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

Film
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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

Film
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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

Film
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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: “Rush” It Ain’t

Film
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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 ...

Koehler on Cinema: Wong Kar-Wai’s “The Grandmaster” 3.0

Film
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For the second time in a few weeks, a film with more than one director-approved cut is being released. Stranger things have happened, but right now, I can’t think of one. Similarities: In both cases, the version with the shortest run time is the one making it to theaters; the filmmakers’ various editions are artistically ...