Hank’s recommendations 02/26/13

hank_paperTHIS ONE SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN OSCAR CONTENDER

THE IMPOSTER — I read this story a year or two ago in the New York Times. The multi-festival award-winning documentary derived from that story, with archival footage, current interviews of the real people involved and effective dramatic re-enactments, was released just this month on DVD.

It’s about a 23 year old Frenchman who, in a phone call from a police station in Spain, convinces a grieving family in San Antonio, Texas, that he is their 13-year-old son who disappeared three years ago. Soon he is flown “home” for the long awaited, hope against hope reunion.

The film is also about investigation methods utilized (or not) by family members, the FBI and a canny, down home private detective named Charlie Parker whose independent take on the real identity of the claimant becomes as thrillingly arrived at as the outsider jazz music of his namesake. The detective’s revelatory theorizing even includes a HOMELAND spin on who the subject really might be.

The film starts out fascinatingly and gets better as it goes along, making a 90 degree turn into bigger and more disturbing lie. In effect, this is several movies in one.

There have been several fine films about imposters, including THE GREAT IMPOSTER (with Tony Curtis), Spielberg’s CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and CATFISH, the documentary from a couple of years ago about an elaborate fake internet identify that lures a group of young college men across country for a surprise encounter with the family that concocted it.

This increasingly gripping documentary plays like the dark side of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

New Releases 01/22/13

Top Hits

End of Watch (action, Jake Gyllenhaal. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “An ode to beat cops and the expansive literature on them, David Ayers’ End of Watch is a muscular, maddening exploitation movie embellished with art-house style and anchored by solid performances. As visually kinetic as it is politically dubious, it sings the song of two Los Angeles police officers, Brian [a good Jake Gyllenhaal] and Mike [an equally fine Michael Peña], brothers in blue who roll in a black and white. Like the cops in Joseph Wambaugh’s 1970 novel The New Centurions they are soldiers amid, in Mr. Wambaugh’s roll call, ‘whores, flimflammers, paddy hustlers, hugger muggers, ex-cons of all descriptions, and anybody else with a kink of some kind or other.'” Read more…)

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)

Pina (Wim Wenders-directed dance doc, Pina Bausch. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The cumulative effect is exhilarating and also a bit frustrating, since so many dances are included and woven together the audience does not have the chance to experience any single work in its entirety. But the power and intelligence of Bausch’s approach, which at times seems more cerebral than sensual, is communicated. And there are moments when her discipline and Mr. Wenders’ visual instincts harmonize perfectly, so that instead of enduring yet another well-meaning specimen of ‘dance on film’ you are experiencing dance and film, fully and simultaneously.” Read more…)

For a Good Time, Call… (comedy, Ari Graynor. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 55. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The enterprising New York women who establish a flourishing phone sex business in the boundary-breaking farce For a Good Time, Call… know how to talk the talk. But can they walk the walk? The running joke of this fizzy, potty-mouthed comedy, directed by Jamie Travis, is that anyone with an erotic imagination — even the nicest of nice girls — can talk dirty and make money at it.” Read more…)

The Paperboy (noir, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 45. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To attempt a simple description of The Paperboy is to risk exhausting the normal critical vocabulary. The movie, directed by Lee Daniels and adapted from a novel by Pete Dexter, is — for starters — a domestic melodrama, a Southern Gothic, a legal thriller, a coming-of-age-story, a high-toned sexploitation picture and an earnest lesson in journalistic ethics and race relations. None of that quite captures it, I’m afraid. The Paperboy is what cinema scholars [and speakers fluent in the film’s native idiom] might call a hot mess. I mean that at least partly as praise.” Read more…)

Nobody Walks (drama, John Krasinski. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 51. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The sultry wild child who dominates Ry Russo-Young’s acutely acted Nobody Walks is a type of femme fatale more likely to be seen in French cinema than in American movies. When Martine [Olivia Thirlby], a 23-year-old experimental artist from New York with a Jean Seberg pixie haircut, locks eyes with a man she fancies, he is a goner… Ms. Russo-Young’s third feature film, Nobody Walks [the title refers to the lack of pedestrians in Los Angeles], has a screenplay she wrote with Lena Dunham [Girls]. Its production values are minimal, but an excellent cast makes up for what it lacks in polish.” Read more…)

About Cherry (drama, Ashley Hinshaw. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 33.)

New Blu-Ray

End of Watch

The Paperboy

New Foreign

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Japan, samurai drama, Koji Yakusho. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A movie called Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai might reasonably lead you to expect an orgy of violence, especially since the director is Takashi Miike, a wildly prolific Japanese filmmaker best known for sanguinary delights like Audition and 13 Assassins. But Hara-Kiri finds this busy genre omnivore in a quiet, even classical frame of mind. More moving than shocking, it proceeds slowly and gracefully, and the few scenes of bloodshed are emotionally intense rather than showily sensational.” Read more…)

New Documentaries

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)

Pina (Wim Wenders-directed dance doc, Pina Bausch, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The cumulative effect is exhilarating and also a bit frustrating, since so many dances are included and woven together the audience does not have the chance to experience any single work in its entirety. But the power and intelligence of Bausch’s approach, which at times seems more cerebral than sensual, is communicated. And there are moments when her discipline and Mr. Wenders’ visual instincts harmonize perfectly, so that instead of enduring yet another well-meaning specimen of ‘dance on film’ you are experiencing dance and film, fully and simultaneously.” Read more…)

Ballplayer: Pelotero (sports, economics. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Latin American names are common on major league rosters these days, but how those players end up in a Dodgers or Mets or Red Sox uniform may not be something the casual baseball fan has given much thought. Ballplayer: Pelotero is a stark documentary that examines that process in the Dominican Republic, a significant source of players. Forget feel-good boys-of-summer tales. This film shows a shady business in which scouts and the teams they represent try to manipulate teenage players, and to some extent the players do some manipulating of their own.” Read more…)

Samsara (nature, society, spirituality. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ron Fricke’s new film, Samsara, shot in a grand and vibrant 70-millimeter format — including some remarkable time-lapse photography — is partly a Sontagian case for sustainability. Or, to adapt the food-obsessed ecological language of the moment, it presents a visual argument for slow looking, for careful, meditative attention to what is seen. A spool of arresting, beautifully composed shots without narration or dialogue, Samsara is an invitation to watch closely and to suspend interpretation [another notion Sontag might have approved].” Read more…)

The Imposter (documentary, biography. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Like its smirking antihero and chief narrator, the serial con artist Frédéric Bourdin, The Imposter is slippery, manipulative, unstable and smoothly confounding. It’s also one of the most entertaining documentaries to appear since Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film similarly obsessed with role playing and deception. Cleverly deflecting our dislike of Mr. Bourdin’s smug narcissism and brazen amorality, the British director Bart Layton presents this bizarre true-crime narrative from multiple viewpoints. The resulting collage of interviews, re-enactments and home-video footage proves the perfect medium for the twisty story of Nicholas Barclay, a Texas teenager who disappeared in 1994.” Read more…)

Direct Your Own Damn Movie (movie-making how-to, Lloyd Kaufman of Troma)

New Gay & Lesbian

Keep the Lights On (drama, Thure Lindhardt. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This summary — and I have only sketched the outlines of a wandering, episodic story — makes Keep the Lights On sound much more schematic, more like a morality tale, than it really is. Its subject is not addiction or ambition, or even love in a conventional romantic sense, but rather the more elusive and intriguing matter of intimacy: how it grows, falters and endures over time. The dialogue sometimes has a canned, hectoring sound, as if the actors had been called upon to announce their feelings rather than express them, but the look, mood and rhythm of the film are exquisitely, even thrillingly authentic. In scenes that jump from year to year and linger over significant, ordinary moments, Mr. Sachs captures the ways strangers turn into lovers and the equally scary and exciting ways that lovers can remain strangers.” Read more…)

New Music

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)