New in Theaters:
Pariah



In writer/director Dee Rees’s genuinely felt feature debut, her teenage heroine is so hidden from the world that she can’t even find herself. The film opens in a smoky, neon-streaked nightclub where a stripper undulates on a stage to the shouts and flung dollar bills of the women watching. Although Alike (Adepero Oduye) is ostensibly there to express herself in a way that she can’t at school or in front of her church-going mother, she seems no more comfortable there than she does bottled up at the family dinner table. Rees’s point isn’t hard to cipher — Alike’s being closeted is about much more than her sexuality — but she parses it with intelligent, feeling complexity in a film that could have covered itself in cliché… 


Pariah opens this week in limited release. You can read my full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
Carnage

What does a parent do when their child whacks another child in the mouth with a stick? Teeth are lost, scarring ensues, and the machinery of modern American over-parenting rolls into action. Two sets of parents meet in a painfully tasteful Brooklyn apartment in Roman Polanski’s rollicking screw-tightener Carnage to resolve that question. The answer isn’t even close to being discovered by the film’s end, but one thing is clear: not one of the four adults yammering and needling and passive-agressive-ing the others has got it right… 


Carnage is playing now in limited release. You can read my full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Books:
Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs appears comfortably large and long. In between its covers lies an incredible life fully lived and thoroughly examined. But even at over 580 pages (plus notes and bibliography), it can also feel slight. That is not for any lack of research, as Isaacson appears to have been given the keys to the kingdom when it came to access. Somehow, one of history’s most horrifically Type-A personalities decided to allow this biographer into his life with next to no limitations…
Steve Jobs is available for sale everywhere. You can read my full review at PopMatters.

In Awards:
New York Film Critics Online

The Artist

Today the New York Film Critics Online — which I’ve been lucky to be a member of for some years now — announced our 2011 film awards, with Michel Hazanavicius’s beautiful grin of a silent comedy The Artist taking home best picture.

A Separation

This wasn’t that surprising, as The Artist has been sweeping up a bushel of awards from other critics’ groups this season. There were a couple left-field awards, though. Best foreign language film went to the Iranian kitchen-sink drama A Separation, which won’t even open until later this month, but is well worth seeking out immediately. Also, the comedy Bridesmaids took home a couple awards, more attention that is usual for such a raunchy mainstream comedy, but fully deserved.

Take Shelter

Reuters comments that our selection of Michael Shannon as best actor for his work in Take Shelter was a “dark horse” choice. (Though anybody who has seen his work in that instant classic would have a hard time arguing against his selection.)

The full list of awards follows:

Best Picture: “The Artist”

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

Best Actor: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”

Bridesmaids

     Runners-up: Michael Fassbender, “Shame” and Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
     Runner-up: Viola Davis, “The Help”

Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, “Drive”

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”

Best Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Descendants”

The Tree of Life

Best Foreign-Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

Best Animated Feature: “The Adventures of Tintin”

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”

Best Use of Music: Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”

Best Ensemble Cast: “Bridesmaids”

Best Debut Director: Joe Cornish, “Attack the Block”

Breakthrough Performer: Jessica Chastain, “The Tree of Life,” “The Help,” “The Debt,” “Take Shelter,” “Texas Killing Fields,” “Coriolanus”

New in Theaters:
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

In his slowly paced, dirty-minded adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, director Tomas Alfredson is faithful to the painstaking part of le Carre’s baroque and cynical fictions, almost to a fault. It’s 1973 and the British spy service is in crisis. The old leadership has been shown the door, following a blown operation the year before, in which an agent was shot in a very public and embarrassing way, in a Bucharest alley while trying to bring over a defector. Of course, not long after the new crew is installed at the head of the agency—which everyone calls the Circus—a whisper starts making the rounds that the Soviets have a mole at the highest level. The Circus must then turn to one of the men they’ve just dismissed, the mole-like and ironically named Smiley (Gary Oldman), to bring the matter to light…
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is playing now in limited release. You can read my full review at PopMatters.

Filmology:
December 2nd

Today’s entry from Filmology is Match Point (2005), Woody Allen’s icepick-sharp and sensual morality play (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson as an on-the-make couple set loose in London) that not only marked his escape from New York but signaled the return of a great filmmaker.
My book, Filmology: A Movie-a-Day Guide to a Complete Film Education, is available in both paperback and ebook formats.

New in Theaters:
Rampart

It’s been 17 years since viewers were shocked to see Woody Harrelson as a full-blooded monster (thank you, Oliver Stone). But it’s still hard to picture him as a straight-up bad guy. Most of the villains he plays are amoral opportunists who don’t quite deserve the appellation “evil,” like the bounty hunter in No Country for Old Men. Even when playing the cynical burial unit captain in The Messenger, some of his darkest work, Harrelson twigged to the character’s vulnerability. There’s something different at play in Rampart, which is not just the great starring role he’s deserved for a long time, but also an opportunity for him to explore depravity in a way he hasn’t outside of Natural Born Killers
Rampart is playing in extremely limited release now. Find it if you can. You can read my full review at PopMatters.