Thursday, September 30, 2010

“Certified Copy” at the 48th New York Film Festival

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that rekindles the passion we cine-maniacs had when we first fell in love with art films. This year, The 48th New York Film Festival (running from September 24th through October 10th) presents one such cinephile’s wet dream in the form of “Certified Copy,” the latest from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, which also marks the 70-year-old master’s first cinematic foray outside his homeland.

Starring French enchantress Juliette Binoche, who nabbed the Best Actress prize in Cannes for her portrayal of an expat gallery owner residing in Tuscany, and British opera star William Shimell as the author she pursues, “Certified Copy” is nothing less than a modern-day masterpiece. It’s one of those rare spellbinders that quietly leave the audience unable to move until the very last credits roll.

To read the rest of my review visit Global Comment.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Blame producer Chad Troutwine, also a producer on “Paris Je T'aime,” for bringing together an array of talented documentary filmmakers to try to coax life into material certainly not suited to the medium of film. With his latest “Freakonomics,” a collection of four shorts based on the blockbuster book about the science of economics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, he's hired the right guys and gals to do the wrong job. Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, and the team of Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing all gamely attack their topics—parenting, cheaters, cause and effect, and incentives, respectively—with gusto, and unfortunately, with widely varying results. And because all these distinct directors were allowed complete creative autonomy, the scattershot “Freakonomics” lacks any tonal cohesion. Each segment is a standalone piece, divided by Seth Gordon's clunky and inorganic interludes and only tangentially related to the larger whole. (In fact, Gordon's introductory snippets—basically showy animation and brief interviews with economist Levitt and journalist Dubner sitting in a staid wood-paneled study—involving real estate, teachers, polio, and the potty training of Levitt's daughter are downright distracting.)

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Like the counterculture icon that penned the poem that serves as the title to Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's film, “Howl” is one odd bird. The study of a young, pre-showman Allen Ginsberg — embodied by James Franco, proving once and for all he's the next Johnny Depp — and the repressive Eisenhower era he rebelled against is presented via three interweaving channels. First, there's the courtroom drama adapted from actual transcripts from the 1957 obscenity trial of publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti that the infamous book of poems sparked. Second, there's the fictional interview conducted by an unseen journalist using Ginsberg's own words. Then there's the animation of the notorious poem itself (designed by Eric Drooker, who collaborated with Ginsberg on “Illuminated Poems”). All of which gives “Howl” the look of “Good Night, and Good Luck.” meets “Waltz with Bashir.”

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Other City

While the Red Campaign to fight AIDS in Africa may be all the rage with celebrities, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Susan Koch has chosen to train her lens on the unglamorous American city that has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in this country, one higher than that of many African nations. Her documentary “The Other City” is a fascinating and damning glimpse inside a parallel universe that exists right in the heart of our nation's capital, and a battle cry from the urban poor of Washington, D.C.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller

Taking as its jumping off point the real-life disappearance in 1961 of the 23-year-old son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in the Asmat region of Papua, New Guinea, "The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller" is a six-course meal. Expertly directed by Alfred Preisser (founder of The Classical Theatre of Harlem and frequent collaborator of Melvin Van Peebles) from Jeff Cohen's sophisticated script based on a short story by Christopher Stokes, and starring a superbly understated ensemble, the play makes a strong case that spiritual destruction and artistic corruption are equal to any physical savagery.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Clowning Like It's 1933: The New York Clown Theatre Festival

As the economy crumbles all around us, Depression-era nostalgia is in the air. One of this summer's highlights for me was spending a gorgeous August evening watching a free screening of “Duck Soup” on a boat docked on the Hudson, courtesy of Cinebeasts. (This cool little collective had teamed up with the Lilac Preservation Project to raise funds to restore the good ship Lilac, built the same year the Marx Brothers classic hit screens.) And now there's the New York Clown Theatre Festival at the Brick, running from September 3 - 26. Among the whopping 26 shows and cabarets, from an international array of performers, presented this year is "Diz and Izzy Aster – Vaudeville's Late Bloomers," which I caught on a double bill with "Ferdinand the Magnificent!" Diz and Izzy are the Burns-and-Allen type creation of multi-talented Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell—who sing, strum, and slapstick their way through familiar ditties, including a "new song by a young starlet" named Judy Garland. (Technically, Izzy plays "Over the Rainbow" on a musical saw.) Ferdinand the Magnificent, on the other hand, is a genuine big-nosed, diaper-wearing clown clad in an obnoxious, neon-pink bodysuit. Resembling a Dodo bird, this alter ego of puppeteer and musician Nick Trotter is a descendant of none other than Harpo Marx, and communicates mostly through physical gestures and the small cowbell tied about his waist.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Biker Fox

The documentary “Biker Fox” might be more aptly called “The World According to Biker Fox,” since Jeremy Lamberton's Slamdance sensation is one very long infomercial for Frank P. DeLarzelere III, a zany, evangelizing health junkie cut from the cloth of Richard Simmons (complete with booty-shaking spandex shorts) who refers to himself in the third person as Biker Fox, and whose overzealous passion for cycling has led him to numerous road-rage run-ins with the Tulsa, Oklahoma law. Biker Fox is a Peter Pan with anger-management issues, a pure exuberant spirit and merry prankster who enjoys everything from feeding wild raccoons by hand in his backyard to reverse prank calling clients who phone the upstanding, salvaged auto-parts business he owns. (One poor guy is greeted by Biker Fox shouting over eardrum-shattering heavy metal music.)

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.