Missed Movies of 2010, Part 1: 3 Idiots to Lebanon

Every year, we put the call out to our staff to pick the year’s best—best films, best DVDs, best TV and performances—and every year, out staff comes up with more selections than we can initially handle. That’s why now, once all the hoopla has subsided and the consensus drawn, we can branch out a with 50 additional efforts our writers felt we overlooked. Call them misjudged (or misguided), but from A to Z, these are the movies we missed for 2010.

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Film: 3 Idiots

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, Omi Vaidya

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Last year, 3 Idiots became the highest grossing Indian film of all time. Sure, it had a few elaborate and strategically-placed dance numbers (like the catchy “Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh”) and an excellent cast featuring the likes of Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor. But, this wasn’t the typical Hindu-Muslim love story or gangster epic or outsourcing comedy – 3 Idiots instantly endeared itself to the hearts and minds of over a billion Indians because it took a tongue-in-cheek stab at the most vaulted of Indian institutions: higher education. Till recently, no Indian film had managed to tackle several of the most contentious issues facing the country’s youth – the pressures of being born with unrealistic, parental expectations; always feeling like you are a disappointment; the exhaustive atmosphere of Indian colleges and universities whose names evoke vaunted edifices of higher learning, but are in actuality oppressive institutions whose policies lead to mental distress and suicide; and the accepted double standard of the educational system, where rote memorization is favored over critical thinking. That director Rajkumar Hirani was able to tackle all of these issues using a blend of humor and drama is a testament to his vision. Along with My Name is Khan, 3 Idiots is one of the first great Indian films of the 21st century.. Shyam Sriram


Film: Amer

Director: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani

Cast: Marie Bos, Delphine Brual, Harry Cleven, Bianca Maria D’Amato, Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène Guibeaud, Bernard Marbaix

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For all the critical attention showered on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan few reviewers noted the influence of the giallo, a genre of horror/psychological thriller which often plays fast and loose with conventional storytelling in favor of expressiveness and impact. Given that one of the best known films in this genre, Suspiria, is set in a ballet school, it’s hard to wonder how the connection could have been missed. But help is at hand: you can get up to speed quickly on giallo conventions by watching Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer which not only borrows some of its soundtrack from vintage giallos, but also remains absolutely true to their spirit as well. Lips have never been fuller, blood redder nor sensuality creepier than in this almost wordless film which looks gives us glimpses of the life its heroine, Ana, as a child (Cassandra Foret), adolescent (Charlotte Eugene Buibeaud) and adult (Marie Bos). Sarah Boslaugh


Film: And Everything Is Going Fine

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Spalding Gray

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While it may not be a probing piece of investigative documentation, Steven Soderbergh’s love letter to his old friend and oddball performance artist does do a fine job of celebrating a complicated and creative conundrum. Using stock footage and old interview clip, monologist Spalding Gray’s entire life is analyzed, from his troubled youth to the sudden stardom that came with Swimming to Cambodia. What we learn is that Gray’s purpose was part of an ongoing dialogue, an endless conversation between the man and his mind that almost always bled over into his evocative form of entertainment. Bill Gibron


Film: Another Year

Director: Mike Leigh

Cast: Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Peter Wright, Olive Maltman

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Another Year ponders the point at which people realize that they have found contentment but still must deal with others who haven’t yet and who are far from realizing it. Even worse is that some of them, some of whom we know best and love the most, will never find it. Watching a person unravel can be like watching a train wreck. It can be infuriating. Sometimes it can be riotously funny. The universality of this theme will immediately draw in the viewer, because, hell, we’ve all been there: What do you do when one of your friends is lost, full of regret and wishes? What happens when as the giver, you’ve simply had enough of the takers? How much are we expected to take from those we love, who may be fundamentally damaged? At what point do you pull out of toxic relationships? Another Year is a film full of introspective questions such as these, a lean, delicious cinematic treat for those cinephiles who don’t like to have obvious, cliché answers shoved down their throats. Matt Mazur


Film: The Arbor

Director: Clio Barnard

Cast: Christine Bottomley, George Costigan, Monica Dolan, Neil Dudgeon , Andrea Dunbar

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Artist-Filmmaker, Clio Barnard’s debut feature-length theatrical release, co-produced by London-based commissioning agency Artangel is both, the most outstanding fictional narrative of 2010, and the best documentary of 2010. A truly courageous experiment in melding hybrid fact and fiction techniques, Barnard’s bio-doc traces the life of Bradford-born playwright, Andrea Dunbar, who tragically died in 1990 at the young age of 29. It is a grim tale of life on the Buttershaw Estate, where Dunbar grew up, and where she raised three children, all from different fathers. Focusing on her eldest child, the mixed race, Lorraine, The Arbor creates an uncomfortable world, where misery can breed life to show business dreams, only to see them quickly trampled by the brutal racism and bigotry of the characters’ insular world. Seamlessly blending archival footage and interviews with a re-staging of Dunbar’s play, in this case on the estate, Barnard manages to create an epochal picture of the murky Thatcher era. But perhaps the most mesmerising thing about The Arbor is the filmmaker’s practice of having the actors lip-synch the words of the real life interviewees (from Dunbar’s life)—a deliberate distancing device that somehow manages to draw the viewer all the more closely in. Omar Kholeif


The Bang Bang Club and more…

Film: The Bang Bang Club

Director: Steven Silver

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Phillippe, Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Malin Åkerman

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The Bang Bang Club is the collective name for Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and João Silva, four photographers who documented the atrocities that took place in the South African townships during Apartheid. It’s also the name of Silva and Marinovich’s memoir of their adventures during this period, which International Emmy award-winning director Steven Silver has adapted for the big screen. The film stars Ryan Phillipe as Marinovich, Taylor Kitsch as Carter, Frank Rautenbach as Oosterbroek and South African actor Neels van Jaarsveld as Silva. The film attracted wide interest when it made its debut at Cannes last year and has since received excellent reviews. The scene where Phillipe as Marinovich captures the shot that will one day earn him the Pulitzer Prize is one of his best. Sally Fink


Film: Buried

Director: Rodrigo Cortés

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Robert Paterson, Samantha Mathis

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The premise sounds suspiciously simple, yet rife with cinematic pitfalls. Ryan Reynolds will spend 90 minutes real time in a single setting — in this case, a wooden box buried underground — trying to figure out how to escape, and more importantly, who put him in such a horrifying predicament. Turns out, he’s in a post-war Iraq, and is being held hostage by insurgents that mean a lot more than business. Thanks to his prodigious talents behind the camera (and Reynolds in front), director Rodrigo Cortés makes it all work effortless. This is more than just edge of your seat suspense. This is a work of invention and novelty that signals the arrival of a major moviemaking talent. Bill Gibron


Film: Catfish

Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Cast: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

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You can cross-examine this picture until you’re blue in the face, but you’ll be missing the point. Reality or hoax — watching the perpetual grin on Yaniv Schulman’s face as his way cool brother gets up close and personal, documenting him as he falls in love with a fictionalised Facebook character, makes Catfish one of the most surreal viewing experiences of 2010. This was the real Facebook movie. Unlike, it’s thrilling glossy counterpart, this narrative, which oscillates between fiction and reality is made with the same DIY aesthetic of the original social networking platform, which gave life to it. Taking the viewer through all of the affecting motions that one encounters when experiencing a mediated virtual relationship — it exposes a reality about identity contortion that has never been seen before on film. Catfish is a story about processes of selection, aspiration, self-loathing, and how the web can be used as a tool for self-induced fantasy, mania and escapism. After the credits roll, you may feel a pang — a little sickly, guilty, disgusted, or quietly frustrated. Whatever the case, you will know that the Schulman brothers have got to you. A college thesis about the film (and its slick foil, The Social Network) can’t be too far off. Omar Kholeif


Film: Cropsey

Director: Joshua Zeman, Barbara Brancaccio

Cast: Det. Ralph Aquino, Frances Auriti, Tracy Begley, Steven Bogen, James Callaghan, Patricia Caridad

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They had heard about it ever since they were kids. In the Hudson Valley and all around Staten Island, the name was legend — urban legend. So documentary filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio decided to learn how the myth about the monstrous bogeyman known as ‘Cropsey’ came about. What they uncover — and discover about their own locality — turns into one of the most terrifying true life experiences ever. Employing both interview material and handheld, first person POV footage, we follow along as these two amateur detectives uncover the real reason children are afraid of the dark… and why there is still as much to fear as we get closer to the truth. Bill Gibron


Film: The Damned United

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall

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The Damned United is the fourth cinematic collaboration between actor Michael Sheen and screenwriter Peter Morgan. In each film, Sheen portrays a real life British figure who achieved popularity and notoriety in the respective industries of politics, broadcasting and sports. As Tony Blair (in both The Queen and The Deal), David Frost (Frost/Nixon) and now Brian Clough, Sheen plays variations on a theme: the idealistic young man who used charisma and supreme self-confidence to challenge the system with bullish pomposity. In spite of their similarities, each performance is remarkable and Sheen clearly goes to great lengths to emulate and understand these historical personalities. The Damned United is his most captivating performance yet. While his previous roles had him pitted against celebrated veteran performers Helen Mirren and Frank Langella, Sheen is placed front and center as Clough, the brash and opinionated football manager (soccer coach to the Americans) who infamously took charge of the Leeds United club for a tumultuous 44 days. Stephen Snart


Enter the Void and more…

Film: Despicable Me

Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Cast: Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove

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Without the usual good vanquishing evil structure, the action throughout Despicable Me is both lively and expressly cartoonish. It owes more of a debt to the tradition of the original Tom and Jerry cartoons than those recent superhero films seeking to invest viewers in emotional backstories. The comedy is broad, aimed at parents as well as kids. It avoids much of the pandering to audience segments — a fart joke for the kids followed by an incongruous pop culture reference for the adults — that makes some animated efforts feel like two movies poorly stitched together. Even when Despicable Me allows the minions to go for the cheap joke—as when they are caught photocopying pictures of their rear ends — it’s still funny, mainly because the minions are such amusing creations. Michael Landweber


Film: Dogtooth

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Christos Passalis

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As a statement on overprotective parenting and the insularity of post-modern society, Yorgos Lanthimos’ masterpiece of amazingly mixed metaphors is devastating. It’s Bad Boy Bubby without the punk ethos. Centering on a domineering father who keeps his adult kids sheltered from the real world (teaching them unusual meanings for common words, portraying the society beyond their barricaded walls as dangerous and desperate), the film suggests that no amount of control can trump the human urges of life, liberty… and lust. Indeed, sex undoes this cloistered clan, a need to feed biology that leads to insights, incest — and finally — insurrection. Bill Gibron


Film: Enter the Void

Director: Gaspar Noé

Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy

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Gasper Noé situates Enter the Void firmly within the tradition of psychedelic cinema. He experiments with point-of-view, washes every frame with luminescent color, and seeds the plot with druggie philosophy. Over 160 minutes, it all looks very impressive, but does it actually mean anything? The muddled (perhaps clichéd) exploration of violence and repercussions makes Enter the Void more like Irreversible than one might at first expect. Both movies are technically impressive, equally beautiful and filthy, polarizing and provocative. And as both end, viewers may not immediately understand what they’ve endured. Like a drug trip, the profundity here is ersatz: whatever Great Truth you believe you’ve attained, you can’t bring it back with you. Jesse Hicks


Film: Eternity

Director: Christopher-Lee Dos Santos

Cast: Ian Roberts, Christina Storm, David James, Andre Frauenstein, Rikki Brest

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South Africa has finally jumped on the band-wagon and produced its own vampire movie. Eternity is set in inner-city Johannesburg and stars a string of South African actors mostly known for their roles in local television soap operas. The accents alone make it worth watching. Imagine District 9’s Wikus van der Merwe sporting pointy teeth and stage make up and you’ll have an idea of what to expect. The film, which the aptly named director Christopher Lee dos Santos, describes as “Blade meets Twilight” tells the tale of a lonely vampire (with a haircut identical to Twilight’s Edward Cullen) who falls in love with a human girl. The film is delightfully low budget, but that only adds to its offbeat charm. Eternity is definitely one for the collectors. Sally Fink


Film: Faster

Director: George Tillman, Jr.

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Moon Bloodgood, Oliver Jackson-Cohen,, Maggie Grace, Matt Gerald

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With its limited action sequences and frequent detours into dark psychological subtexts, Faster is akin to an ’80s slasher epic with the typical silent monster replaced by a three-dimensional human being. While the narrative situations are the same — a pool of victims is outlined with a psychotic killer ready to pick them off one by one — there is more here that horror. Unusual elements like forgiveness, morality, character flaws, and recognizable social stigmas like abortion, addiction, and molestation are fitted into 98 minutes of brute force. Since it doesn’t rely on the cliches that riddle genre, Faster feels new and novel. It’s closer to an outright drama than a fights or car chases strung together. Bill Gibron


Get Low and more…

Film: Father of My Children

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

Cast: Michaël Abiteboul , Chiara Caselli, Alice de Lencquesaing, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Manelle Driss

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Mia Hansen-Love’s film draws its inspiration from the life of independent French film producer Humbert Balsan, fictionalised here as Grégoire Carvel and played with charm and presence by Louis-Do de Lencquesaing. Carvel seems initially to have it all, but the movie gradually reveals him to be a man in crisis, crippled mostly by the pressures of his work, pressures that lead him to a shocking action midway through the film. Hansen-Love’s approach is discreet and understated but ultimately very powerful. Father of My Children subtly pulls the viewer into intimacy with its characters and refuses to either demonise or deify any of the people that it shows us. The movie has an extraordinary unfussy naturalism and the performances that the director coaxes from the young actresses who play Carvel’s three children (including Alice de Lencquesaing, Louis-Do’s real-life daughter) are beyond praise. The director also offers a sobering account of the practicalities of film financing and production, while some inspired music choices greatly enhance tone and mood. “I wanted to make a film that gives you both the cruelty and the beauty of life, the happiness along with the sadness,” Hansen-Love has said. That not inconsiderable feat is precisely what Father of My Children achieves. Alex Ramon


Film: Freakanomics

Director: Seth Gordon, Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing

Cast: Jade Viggiano, Zoe Sloane, Amancaya Aguilar, Alyssa Wheeldon, Sammuel Soifer, Kellie Gerardi

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Anthology films are not a popular format today, perhaps because they remind people too much of television which they could be watching at home for free. But it’s the perfect format for Freakonomics which presents some of the key ideas from the bestselling book by the same name by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Levitt’s specialty is using methods of economic analysis to questions never contemplated by John Maynard Keynes, such as: does paying kids to get good grades work? Does legalized abortion lower the crime rate? Does it matter what you name your child? These questions and more are examined in four separate segments by an all-star team of directors — Alex Gibney, Morgan Spurlock, Eugene Jarecki, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady — which both examine the questions posed and demonstrate how statistical methods may be used to investigate issues which at first seem entirely resistant to analysis. Sarah Boslaugh


Film: Get Low

Director: Aaron Schneider

Cast: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Scott Cooper

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The New York premiere of Get Low was received with overwhelming critical acclaim — and rightfully so. The mixture of solemn and comical tones, along with an all-star cast (Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray), was a recipe for cinematic prominence. But with such prodigious ingredients, was first-time feature film director Aaron Schneider up for the task? Fortunately, the rookie came out like a seasoned vet, conducting a charming story, filled with emotional twists and turns. Schneider’s strong suit was his ability to seamlessly string all the characters together. Despite being quite distinct, the cast had an undeniable chemistry throughout. Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is originally perceived as an aged, grim hermit, who guards his privacy at the highest cost. In an attempt to gain forgiveness from the townspeople and those he cares about, he decides to throw a funeral party. With the help of money-hungry funeral home owner, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), and his pretty boy sidekick, Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black), we are led on a journey of passion and wit. Juxtaposing the irritated temperament of Duvall with the artful jest of Murray, their two characters produce some unbelievably charming dialogues. David Reyneke


Film: How to Train Your Dragon

Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson

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This entertaining and often exhilarating Dreamworks computer-animated film works on almost every level. It is both a marvelous visual experience, featuring lots of roller coaster dragon’s-eye-view sequences, and a smartly constructed piece of fantasy. It’s funny, charming, touching, and exciting — everything a children’s fable should be. I loved it. It isn’t hard to read How to Train Your Dragon as an allegory about the central problem with our prosecution of the War on Terror. A kid-friendly version of the lesson we have as yet utterly failed to learn, How to Train Your Dragon presents two apparently irreconcilable forces (warlike Vikings who define their identities through their steadfast defense of their community and the apparently mindless killing machines who are the dragons), and then considers what might happen if they were to get to know one another and try to work out a non-violent solution to their problems. Turns out, they might just have a common enemy that they can confront together, overcome, and live in harmony ever after. Stuart Henderson


Film: The Human Centipede

Director: Tom Six

Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura

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It really should be an opera. It does cater to a considerably questionable niche, one with the creative constitution to tolerate its twisted, uncompromising brutality. But it’s not just some pseudo-snuff film gussied up with gallons of grue or smut disguised as some insight into the haunted human psyche. While definitely not for everyone, it is also an arresting and imminently watchable work of jaundiced genius. It takes a certain crackpot mentality to come up with an idea as unhinged as this and to offer it in such a concise, clinic manner speaks volumes. Bill Gibron


The Illusionist and more…

Film: The Illusionist

Director: Sylvain Chomet

Cast: Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin

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As The Illusionist (L’illusionniste) begins, Tatischeff, the titular performer appears in black and white. On a stage in a small Parisian theater, he shuffles and bows, reveals a couple of playing cards, then pulls a rabbit from a top hat. Following a montage of theater marquees (the magician works hard for his meager money), the film transitions to color. Now you see that Tatischeff wears a red suit, that his socks are orange and match the band on his top hat. The change to color underscores a couple of things. As adept and assured as Tatischeff may be, as many years as he’s been working and as much attention as he pays to details of appearance—his stock in trade after all—he is also part of an era that’s passing. Based on an unproduced screenplay Jacques Tati wrote in 1956, Sylvain Chomet’s film—rendered in his signature hand-drawn animation and nearly wordless—recalls a kind of entertainment once popular, now largely forgotten. Cynthia Fuchs


Film: The Infidel

Director: Josh Appignanesi

Cast: Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff, Archie Panjabi, Amit Shah, Yigal Naor, Matt Lucas, Ricky Sekhon

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Display Width: 200The Infidel

Mahmud Nasir, a casual British Muslim who loves rock music and the occasional alcoholic beverage, discovers a secret that throws his comfortable existence into chaos. Mahmud actually was born to Jewish parents, who then gave him up for adoption. This revelation could not come at a worse time. His son plans to marry, but first he and his fiancée must obtain the blessing of her radical Islamist father. Mahmud reluctantly agrees to act the part of a fundamentalist Muslim to win the zealot¹s favor. But his identity crisis subverts all best-laid plans, as his hidden Jewish origins become public knowledge. As in classic farce, everything works out in the end. But before it comes to its happy conclusion, The Infidel wittily explores the touchy topics of cultural identity and religious intolerance. The film¹s biggest asset, though, is the performance of Omid Djalili as Mahmud. The bald, tubby Iranian-British Djalili makes Mahmud a rich comic creation — endearing, sometimes off-putting, and hilarious, never more so than when he¹s performing his idea of Jewishness, with stage Semitic facial expressions and body language. George De Stefano


Film: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Director: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg

Cast: Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Don Rickles

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Display Width: 200Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Functioning on a little less than three hours a sleep a night and driving herself far beyond the capacity of even the youngest performer, Joan Rivers appears to be running out the clock like it’s an actual foot race — and she doesn’t intend to lose. In fact, if she could find a way to keep the sweep second hand from making its ritualistic rounds, she’d gladly give a portion of her income to halt its endless marching. Some may consider her a dinosaur, a red carpet crawling, home shopping shilling relic who’s demotion to the backend of comedy’s folklore is long overdue. But that would be selling Joan Rivers short. She is indeed a piece of work. But it’s a product of her own design, and as long as someone is willing to buy it, she’ll be out there, making it available. It explains why she is so driven. It explains the draw of this excellent documentary. It also explains why she is so sad. Author


Film: The Killer Inside Me

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Bill Pullman, Ned Beatty

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Display Width: 200The Killer Inside Me

Everything I had heard about The Killer Inside Me, made me cringe, even before watching it. I heard it was incredibly violent with brutal depictions of rape, torture and BDSM. I mentally prepared myself to expect something along the lines of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible meets Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Yet, I was not prepared for what I ultimately experienced – a well-scripted, beautifully-shot and thoughtful adaptation of Jim Thompson’s pulp novel of the same name. Casey Affleck has been making a habit of stealing the show in every picture he has been in recently and this film is no exception. His turn as Deputy Lou Ford provides an intimate look at the mind and mannerisms of a sociopath, hidden behind the exterior of a Texas gentleman, whose mercurial nature allows him to toggle instantly between dehumanizing monster and oozing charmer. When we learn of his less-than-normal upbringing and sexual abuse, the viewer actually feels pity, even as we see him batter Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson and commit other random acts of violence. If there was ever a film in recent times that was unfarily and prematurely doomed by critics, The Killer Inside Me is it. Quoting Public Enemy, “don’t believe the hype” and go and see it for yourselves. Shyram Sriram


Film: Lebanon

Director: Samuel Maoz

Cast: Oshri Cohen, Zohar Shtrauss, Michael Moshonov, Itay Tiran

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Display Width: 200Lebanon

Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon follows on the heels of Beaufort and Waltz with Bashir as the latest of Israeli films to offer a compelling and often very personal reflection on the 1982 Lebanon War. Maoz served as a gunner in the tank division during that war, and he confines his film to what he knows best: all the action takes place inside of a tank on the first day of the invasion. The personal and historical aspects of Lebanon’s story are not particularly emphasized, though. You can find some more of the personal side in the short making-of documentary that comes as a special feature (although it’s unfortunately the only special feature besides a trailer). In the film itself, we are given little context besides the start date of the war and vague declarations of who the allies and enemies are. For an Israeli already familiar with the details of the war, the film no doubt would speak specifically to that moment in their history. The success of Lebanon, though, lies in the fact that for those with only cursory knowledge of Israeli history, the movie is a story about modern warfare generally as much as it is one about the 1982 Lebanese War specifically. Tomas Hachard

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