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Marjorie Prime: Who Were You?, by David Bax

17 Aug

Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime takes place almost entirely in one room. In an ordinary case, that might be a demerit, chalked up to an inability to transfer the story from its original form as a play (by Jordan Harrison) into a more cinematic form. Here, though, Almereyda makes this one room the nexus around which the rest of the movie’s reality revolves. Beyond this room, the characters and the world change drastically as time pushes forward, as evidenced by having one scene take place with a growing snowstorm raging outside the window. The past recedes and mutates even as the characters try their best to hold onto it. It’s dizzying to contemplate but, thankfully, we can ground ourselves in this space, the way a drunk might fall asleep with one foot on the floor to stop the room from spinning.

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Patti Cake$: Dare Ya to Do What You Want, by David Bax

16 Aug

It may not be immediately clear to you, when watching Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$, that the movie is set in Northern New Jersey (it may take you as long as until the first Bruce Springsteen song shows up on the soundtrack to figure it out). But, thanks to Jasper’s firm command of tone and atmosphere, you’ll understand that you’ve set down in a place of scrappy strivers and bitter burnouts who are both inspired and intimidated by the shadow they live in. For what it’s worth, it takes place in Bayonne.

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Lemon: Curb Your Enthusiasm, by David Bax

16 Aug

“It’s time for a new you. The old you doesn’t work anymore.” This specific sentence is spoken by Isaac (Brett Gelman) a struggling actor, as a part of commercial in which he isn’t wearing any pants. The line is not just a summation of the entire mission statement of advertising; it’s clearly about Isaac as well, in a bitterly funny way. That sardonic tone is the essence of Janicza Bravo’s Lemon. The accepted portmanteau for this type of story is tragicomic. But Lemon, Bravo’s first feature film, can’t seem to get the tragedy/comedy balance right.

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Logan Lucky: The Doldrums, by Josh Long

16 Aug

Jimmy Logan, the protagonist of Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, lives in south-eastern West Virginia, close to his daughter and ex-wife. The action of the film begins when he’s fired from his job at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Somehow, the film doesn’t mention (or doesn’t realize?) that his daily routine includes a 3 hour, 200 mile drive from home to work, and then the same drive again at the end of each work day. Does this matter? Let me put it this way – should audiences be incredulous if a film suggests to us that our protagonist lives in Baltimore, and commutes via car across three states to New York City every day? They would, and should. But because Logan Lucky is set in flyover country, no one seems to care. It’s this kind of unawareness about the film’s setting and the people that live there that really holds the film back.

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Next Fest 2017: L.A. Times, by David Bax

13 Aug

Michelle Morgan’s L.A. Times is an attempt to update the ‘hyper-verbose, aimless young people’ blueprint of 90s fare like Reality Bites to the current day. From the opening scene, in which jaded but overly confident lifestylers at a bourgeois cocktail bar casually assert their opinions on the ethics of patronizing prostitutes, the hollow echoes of those Generation X forebears make themselves known. The roundabout speechifying and armchair psychology continues from that point on and never lets up. The characters in Reality Bites may have been full of shit but at least they pretended to stand for something. The people in L.A. Times can’t see anything beyond the ends of their noses, too vapid to understand the traditional cultural values into which they keep reflexively retreating. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the movie itself.

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Next Fest 2017: Golden Exits, by David Bax

13 Aug

In the first full scene of Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits, a palpable tension hangs over the seemingly innocuous preparation for a small dinner party. An archivist named Nick (Adam Horovitz) is about to introduce to his wife Aly (Chloe Sevigny) and her sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker) the assistant he’s hired to work with him over the next few months, Naomi (Emily Browning). Before the young woman even arrives, suspicions and accusations hang in the air, yet they remain unspoken. Of course they do; in Perry’s cerebral but yearning movie, everyone talks constantly but no one ever says what’s really on their mind.

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Next Fest 2017: Lemon, by David Bax

11 Aug

“It’s time for a new you. The old you doesn’t work anymore.” This specific sentence is spoken by Isaac (Brett Gelman) a struggling actor, as a part of commercial in which he isn’t wearing any pants. The line is not just a summation of the entire mission statement of advertising; it’s clearly about Isaac as well, in a bitterly funny way. That sardonic tone is the essence of Janicza Bravo’s Lemon. The accepted portmanteau for this type of story is tragicomic. But Lemon, Bravo’s first feature film, can’t seem to get the tragedy/comedy balance right.

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Good Time: Don’t Feel Safe in New York City, by Scott Nye

10 Aug

“That was like the Coen brothers on speed!” the buffoonish man behind me cried, and loathe though I was to find accord with him after an hour and a half of repeating the onscreen action to his attending partner, I had much the same thought myself. After the bracing heroin drama Heaven Knows What and the new participation of Robert Pattinson, I had certain expectations of the team’s (co-directors Josh and Ben Safdie, co-writer Ronald Bronstein) attempt at a crime film – almost wall-to-wall hilarity was not among them.

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Home Video Hovel: The Paul Naschy Collection, by Dayne Linford

9 Aug

One of the best things about cinema over this last century, characterized by this art form perhaps above all others, is the way it has left thousands of little pockets, obscure cinematic worlds unto themselves, just waiting for you to discover them. In that vein, I recently dove into The Paul Naschy Collection, a set of five films featuring the talents of Naschy, a widely beloved, Spanish B-movie star, producer, writer, and director I’d never heard of before. Though often far from perfect, I personally found viewing these disparate films to be rather delightful, a fun dip into an aspect of cinema history that’s almost never touched upon.

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The Only Living Boy in New York: Another Nice Guy to Avoid, by David Bax

9 Aug

Two young New Yorkers peer over a concrete wall, waiting for the protagonist’s father to emerge from his workplace in order to catch him having an affair. This is one of the defining scenes and promotional images from Gillian Robespierre’s Landline. It’s also—coincidentally, of course—a moment from Marc Webb’s The Only Living Boy in New York. The two films have little in common otherwise but, through no fault of Webb’s, the comparison is likely to be made and also likely to not do Only Living Boy any favors. Whereas Robespierre’s film is youthful in its semiautobiographical details, Webb’s, with its screenplay by Allan Loeb (this year’s The Space Between Us), is just plain juvenile.

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