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Melissa Anderson

Film, "LUV": It's Always One Last Score

"LUV": It's Always One Last Score

"Imma teach you some real-world shit," ex-felon Vincent (Common) tells his 11-year-old nephew, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), as they ride through the streets of Baltimore, thus assuring that everything that follows in Luv will adhere solely to the preposterous plot…
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Film, "Mama": Less Scary Than a Call From Mom

"Mama": Less Scary Than a Call From Mom

A chiller about two abandoned little girls and their bond to the wraith of the title, Mama never delivers the primal terror its premise would suggest. Instead, the movie — the first feature by Andy Muschietti — distracts with too…
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Film, Feature The Year in Film: 10 Movies to Watch in 2013

The Year in Film: 10 Movies to Watch in 2013

Most of the blathering this year about the death of film and film culture has already evaporated from the mind like so much inert gas. But one gnomic pronouncement endures: Leos Carax describing cinema as "a beautiful island with a…
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Film, "The Impossible": A Thorough Whitewashing

"The Impossible": A Thorough Whitewashing

When the words "true story" appear twice in a film's opening disclaimer, it's a guarantee that what follows will include at least one questionable fiction. The Impossible is inspired by the Alvarez Belons, a Spanish family of five who survived…
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Film, "Rust and Bone": Dismembering a Cinematic Beauty

"Rust and Bone": Dismembering a Cinematic Beauty

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one must have a heart of stone to watch Jacques Audiard's outrageous melodrama Rust and Bone without laughing. Loosely adapted from two works in Craig Davidson's 2005 short story collection of the same name, Rust and…
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Film, "Any Day Now": A Travesty's Travesty

"Any Day Now": A Travesty's Travesty

Gay-male weepies have left a long trail of tears, stretching back to the sobbing, self-loathing queens of The Boys in the Band, released one year after the Stonewall insurrection of 1969, and including high-prestige pictures like Philadelphia (1993) and Brokeback…
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Film, "Lay the Favorite": One Day She'll Win

"Lay the Favorite": One Day She'll Win

A wan comedy about gambling that takes no risks, Stephen Frears' Lay the Favorite has none of the stinging sordidness of The Grifters, his 1990 movie about chiselers and con artists. That tight, nimble adaptation of Jim Thompson's high-pulp, strained-through,…
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Film, "Playing for Keeps": Shut It Down, Ladies

"Playing for Keeps": Shut It Down, Ladies

Gerard Butler, playing George, a former soccer great now dodging bill collectors in suburban Virginia, speaks in his natural Scottish accent in the romantic comedy Playing for Keeps. The brogue is remarked upon at least three times, with one character…
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Film, "Starlet": The Old and the Beautiful

"Starlet": The Old and the Beautiful

An empathic, absorbing tale of the old and the beautiful, Starlet tracks an unlikely intergenerational friendship in the San Fernando Valley. Florida transplant Jane (Dree Hemingway) is employed by one of the area's main engines of commerce, breaking into the…
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Film, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II": At Long Last

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II": At Long Last

There's plenty of red glare in Twilight's last gleaming, emitting mainly from the peepers of Bella (Kristen Stewart), now 100 percent vampire, a conversion that took place during the final minutes of Breaking Dawn Part I to save her life…
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Film, "Holy Motors": Hark, Behold, Watch the Uncategorizable

"Holy Motors": Hark, Behold, Watch the Uncategorizable

Unclassifiable, expansive, and breathtaking, Holy Motors, the first feature-length film from Leos Carax since Pola X (1999) — and only his fifth in 28 years — received a log line of sorts from its writer-director at the press conference following…
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Film, "Ornette: Made in America": Portraits in Space, Time, Performance, and Jazz

"Ornette: Made in America": Portraits in Space, Time, Performance, and Jazz

The invaluable American independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke (1919-97) once said: "There is no real difference between a traditional fiction film and a documentary. I've never made a documentary. There is no such trip." Her genre-blurring claim applies to all her…
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Film, "The Sessions": Physical, Spiritual, Sexual

"The Sessions": Physical, Spiritual, Sexual

You were really and truly inside me," Helen Hunt's sex surrogate Cheryl assures her client, 36-year-old Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), a poet and journalist confined to an iron lung after contracting polio as a child, who doesn't want to die…
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Film, "The House I Live In": The Straight Dope

"The House I Live In": The Straight Dope

The winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance, Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In, an occasionally muddled disquisition on the colossal failure of the war on drugs, rehashes much that will be familiar to even the…
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Film, "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel": Fashion Dominatrix

"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel": Fashion Dominatrix

Raconteuse, epigrammatist, and mythomaniac, peerless fashion editor Diana Vreeland (1903–89) might have loved words as much as she loved Balenciaga. As Harold Koda of the Met's Costume Institute, for which Vreeland served as a special consultant from 1973 until her…
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Film, "Won't Back Down": That'll Show Those Teachers' Unions

"Won't Back Down": That'll Show Those Teachers' Unions

The fat, lazy public school teacher who can't be bothered to stop diddling with her phone or shopping for shoes online while her second-grade class erupts into mayhem in the opening scene of Won't Back Down isn't the most despicable…
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Film, "10 Years": Reeling in the Aughts

"10 Years": Reeling in the Aughts

An amiable, seriocomic high-school-reunion movie, 10 Years succeeds in pulling off a fine varsity talent show. Although some performers, notably Channing Tatum, who also produced, and Ari Graynor, are more appealing than others, the film is admirably consistent in its…
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Film, "How to Survive a Plague": Here's Who Saved the World

"How to Survive a Plague": Here's Who Saved the World

In his filmmaking debut, journalist David France, who wrote the first story about ACT UP for the Village Voice, assembles a thoroughly reported chronicle of that direct-action advocacy group's most vital era, from its founding in 1987 (six years into…
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Film, "The Words": Somehow Less Exciting Than Its Title

"The Words": Somehow Less Exciting Than Its Title

Although The Words might be witlessly titled and executed, you can pass the time coming up with fancy phrases to describe its basic concept: The stories nesting inside stories suggest matryoshka dolls; its meta-narratives a mise en abyme. The movie…
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Film, "Beloved": Songs Sung Blah

"Beloved": Songs Sung Blah

Writer-director Christophe Honoré revisits the musical — the genre of his biggest stateside hit, Love Songs (2007) — in Beloved, a sprawling mess of multiple romantic triangles in which all the angles are obtuse. Era-spanning (the film opens in 1963…
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