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Friday, Oct 8, 2010
Based on the life of Johann Kastenberger, better known as "Pump-gun Ronnie", The Robber succeeds by subverting the normal routine for a film about robbers.

The 46th Chicago International Film Festival is packed to the gills with films, fans and critics. For two weeks, many folks will be lining up to see some of the most anticipated cinematic releases of the year: there’s Black Swan, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, 127 Hours, Certified Copy, Hereafter, The Tempest and The Debt.


But, with dozens of films to watch, and very little time to watch them, why spend it all on movies that are sure to return to theaters in a matter of months? There’s been plenty written about, say, Black Swan‘s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and PopMatters contributing editor Matt Mazur provided excellent coverage of that film and many others that screened at TIFF.


This is a time to check out movies that aren’t guaranteed to screen in the U.S. after the festival. Which would be a terrible fate for a film like The Robber, a tense thriller about an Austrian marathon runner who just happened to use his skills for speed to rob banks.


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Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010
Michael Epstein's newest entry to PBS's American Masters series looks great, sounds better, and offers very little we didn't already know about John Lennon -- and glosses over a lot that we do.

One of the throwaway graphical flourishes of Michael Epstein’s LennonNYC, which premiered at the New York Film Festival this weekend, encapsulates the tone of the piece more than any of its assorted sound bites, news footage, or endless parade of archived photographs. During the many segments recounting John Lennon’s recording studio sessions, black and white sketch lines scribble themselves over candid images, following features of faces, needles of meters, microphone stands, guitar strings, outlines of hands, contours of music stands. They evoke a whimsical teenager doodling over pages of Teen Beat: her idle tracing is a crude paean to the stars and starlets she so admires. LennonNYC is a work of nostalgic devotion in the very same, criminally respectful mode. I ended up wishing it were more like this imagined girl’s brother, stealing her mags to draw mustaches and penises all over it.


Not that I wanted to see the doc gossip away Lennon’s dignity, but it would be nice to hear a little bit about how this Beatle wasn’t great. His somewhat well-known relationship with May Pang, which lasted a year-and-a-half or so after he and Yoko Ono separated—his so-called “Lost Weekend”—is sublimated to the point of teasing ambiguity. You’d think it was simply a matter of courtesy to his survivors, mainly Ono—who was, incidentally, present at the screening I attended at the Lincoln Center’s Starr Theater. When Epstein’s narrative reaches this chapter, though, she seems on the verge of mentioning the affair by name. So much so, that I conclude she did, only to be silenced in the editing process.


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Friday, Sep 24, 2010
Monkey Ghosts, unraveling ballerinas, going green with Mike Leigh, and a pox on the pioneers. This year there were four clear stand outs at an otherwise boring Toronto Film Festival.
Another Year (dir. Mike Leigh, 2010)

Lest you make the rookie mistake of thinking the legendary Mike Leigh’s newest film Another Year is about anything so black and white, cut and dry, as being “happy” or “unhappy”, the director was clear to point out to me – during the private round table interview I conducted with him and actors Jim Broadbent, Lesely Manville, and Ruth Sheen during TIFF – that this notion is completely wrong. “I think that’s twaddle – I never said that and the film doesn’t say that. That’s the very thing the film doesn’t say, if you don’t mind me saying so! Are you happy?”


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Monday, Sep 20, 2010
James Franco and Xavier Dolan come up winners, while Catherine Breillat, in an unlikely twist of fate, brings up the rear with Hilary Swank.

Time now for a few short takes before we wrap up our Toronto International Film Festival 2010 coverage with our patented “Best of the Fest” picks that will look in depth at the four clear stand outs of this year’s somewhat marginal festival.


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Friday, Sep 17, 2010
The presence of queer directors at this year's TIFF is strong, as is the presence of women, both in front of and behind the camera.

The presence of queer directors at this year’s TIFF is strong, as is the presence of women, both in front of and behind the camera. In this edition of our TIFF coverage, I discover that sometimes, as much as you would like to support your people, you must also have a clear-eyed view of the finished work and be critical of the poor choices being made by some of them. Unfortunately in film criticism there is no free pass for the gays and the ladies.


What’s Wrong with Virginia? (dir. Dustin Lance Black, 2010)

This albatross is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black title and it practically begs for a snarky answer to the title question by being so completely ridiculous. What’s Wrong with Virginia? What’s right with Virginia is a better question and the answer is: zilch.


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