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Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Film

"The Personal History of David" Puts a Playful Spin on Dickens' Social-Climbing Epic

Armando Iannucci veers sharply from pitch-black satire to a more upbeat comedy with The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel as a hero who would have been eaten alive in Veep.

Film

Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

'The Rental' Is an Airbnb Horror of Hipsters in Peril

In Dave Franco and Joe Swanberg's hipster horror flick The Rental, the looming threat surrounding a vacationing foursome feels less crucial than the lies they tell each other.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Film

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2020

This year's 'digital edition' of Human Rights Watch's consistently engaging and enraging collection of documentaries is at its best when spotlighting the activists fighting to make humanity more human.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Film

'The Ghost of Peter Sellers': When an Actor Destroys His Own Movie

Peter Medak's documentary about his ill-fated 1974 pirate comedy, The Ghost of Peter Sellers, is less bonkers tale of a production gone mad than therapeutic excursion into a traumatic memory.

Film

'Capital in the 21st Century': Pie for the Rich, Crumbs for the People

Justin Pemberton's film version of Thomas Piketty's landmark book on the dangers of today's yawning income inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, is more TED Talk than documentary, but it's a handy summary nonetheless.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Television

It Does Happen Here in HBO's 'The Plot Against America'

The organic growth of everyday American fascism and the understanding that pogroms are not a uniquely European phenomenon is rendered in stark and terrifying detail in David Simon's adaptation of Philip Roth's alternate historical novel, The Plot Against America.

Film

'The Wild Goose Lake' Is a Spellbinding Neo-Noir

A gang war becomes a massive police manhunt through a remote, lawless corner of China in Yi'nan Diao's moody, violent, and gorgeously shot crime story, The Wild Goose Lake.

Books

The Soul of the Machine in William Gibson's 'Agency'

In William Gibson's prequel to The Peripheral, Agency, Hillary Clinton is president, but that's only a detail.

Books

'Uncanny Valley': When the Confidence Boys Took Over Everything

Anna Wiener's Silicon Valley memoir, Uncanny Valley, reveals a piratical industry choking on its own hubris and blind to the cost of its destruction.

Film

'The 2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary' Shows People Struggling for Security

Anxiety about institutions' ability to provide security is at the root of a strong crop of nonfiction short subjects, which range from South Korea to Sweden, the suburbs of California to the city of St. Louis, in The 2020 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentary.

Film

In 'Uncut Gems' Adam Sandler's Howard Ratner Is on the Brink of Everything, or Nothing

The Safdie Brothers' nervy ball of tension, #PMPick Uncut Gems, sends a hustler blasting recklessly through a city where everybody is on the make.

Television

In HBO's 'Watchmen', the Devil Doesn’t Disappear

Damon Lindelof's over-plotted, over-anxious, daring, genre-hopping offshoot of Alan Moore's alternate-history graphic novel, Watchmen, is less a show about hunting down the bad guys than it is about the twisted turns and stubborn legacies of racist trauma in America -- and the resistance to atoning for it.

Film

Cynthia Erivo's Performance Carries Kasi Lemmons' 'Harriet'

Cynthia Erivo's transcendent turn as Union spy, escaped slave, and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman shines through Kasi Lemmons' heroic but oversimplified biopic, Harriet.

Film

'The Lighthouse' Finds Lynchian Beauty in the Terror of Pitiless Nature

In Robert Eggers' brutal but lyrical 19th century horror show, The Lighthouse, there is a lot of David Lynch in the looming soundtrack and the steam-powered, proto-industrial feel in the scenes of tending the lighthouse machinery.


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