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"A Commercial Piece of Shit": Madonna on Film

2 hours ago

In his elephantine sixth edition of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (2014), critic David Thomson reserves his most scathing, uncharitable critique for Madonna. To him, her mere existence on film is an affront to the medium itself. He finds that she is incapable of understanding the art of acting, and spends the space of nine paragraphs belaboring the point. “There is nothing in Madonna to be advertised,”he writes, “except for her ironic, deflecting contempt. She is an ad for advertising.”It is a curiously mean-spirited entry in a book filled with thoughtful, sympathetic reconsiderations of women whom critics wrote off in their time. Thomson’s entries on Tippi Hedren and Kim Novak are among his most articulate and impassioned. Yet Thomson is utterly heartless when it comes to Madonna, suspecting that “[s]he is disappointed about something, and hugely driven by resentment.” Thomson wasn’t exactly staking out a contrarian position. »

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The Future More Vivid: "Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World"

2 hours ago

When word came from Sundance that Werner Herzog had made a documentary about the internet, it sounded like an appropriately Herzogian joke. Herzog's documentaries tend to enthusiastically explore how human consciousness is anything but rational, how it come saddled with obsessions and impulses and strange imperfections and unbridgeable psychic isolation—and really, where better to look for all of that than the internet? Go to the online comments section of any news story about Black Lives Matter, and you'll get a deeper glimpse into the abyss than anything in Grizzly Man (2005). In truth, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is only partly about internet communication, and dwells on its dark side only briefly. The film is more about the explosion of information technology writ on a cosmic scale: it is one of Herzog's most expansive documentaries—and one of his best in recent years—with its eye on »

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Weekly Rushes. "Olli Mäki," Ingrid Bergman's Home Movies, Trailers Galore, Scott Walker's Score

22 hours ago

NEWSMost exciting for us this week is the news that the Cannes Un Certain Regard prizewinner this year, Juho Kuosmanen's wonderful debut film The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, will be having its North American premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival. Mubi is distributing the film theatrically and digitally in the United States and United Kingdom.Recommended VIEWINGCourtesy of the Criterion Collection, excerpts of Ingrid Bergman's home movies, which include Alfred Hitchcock, made around the time of their collaboration on Spellbound. With the full lineup of the Toronto International Film Festival announced and the autumn film season nearly upon us, wonderful trailers have been released in an overwhelming deluge. Here are some of the highlights:The much-anticipated restoration and re-release of Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust.Hong Sang-soo's Yourself and Yours, which gets a typically wacky trailer.Bertrand Bonello's Nocturama, »

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Video Essay. The Sound of Horses: Two John Ford Westerns

24 August 2016 7:02 AM, PDT

Mubi is showing John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) in the United States from August 24 - September 22, 2016.In the years before and after the Second World War, John Ford directed his first sound westerns: the crowd-pleasing adventure of Stagecoach (1939) and the darker, more introspective My Darling Clementine (1946). The films share a number of tropes and structural quirks, but differ drastically in their respective tones and formal approaches.This video essay explores the context and implications of those differences by comparing the soundtracks of each film in similar scenes. The result shows how a seasoned auteur can impart his experiences and worldview into every facet of a film, and how profoundly our perceptions are shaped by the simple act of listening. »

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"I Want to Look into a Story They Told Me": Two Films in Search of One Thing That Find Something Else

23 August 2016 1:22 PM, PDT

The making of most documentaries pivots on one central question, a question that ultimately determines the nature of the film: do you hit upon a story and set out in search of it or do you let the story find you? It’s easy to see why the former approach enjoys such currency, as the biggest unknown is already clear from the outset. With a pre-determined story already in place, it’s now about working out the best way to tell it: locating the right people and making sure they say the right things on camera, scouring archives to find the footage that will lend credence to your argument, pinpointing the locations and landmarks with the greatest illustrative appeal. It’s an approach that’s been applied to countless subjects, people, and places and even brought forth some great films, although it still throws up some inconvenient questions along the way. »

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Viff 2016. Lineup

22 August 2016 12:34 PM, PDT

The first round of films have been announced for the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 29 - October 14), including a new program called Future//Present that is curated by critic (and Notebook contributor) Adam Cook.Canadian IMAGES1:54 (Yan England)At sixteen, Tim (Mommy’s Antoine Olivier Pilon) is a bright student and gifted athlete. He is, however, somewhat timid, and with good reason. Navigating the nebulous world of teenage sexual identity has left the young man isolated and afraid. He copes with his anxiety by throwing himself back into competitive running, a sport he’d abandoned. In Yan England's dramatic thriller, bullying and peer pressure are the catalysts for a dramatic change in attitude and a redefinition of what makes Tim Tim.Darwin (Benjamin Duffield)Fans of The Hunger Games are in for a treat! Set in a dystopian future, Benjamin Duffield’s film imagines what spending all of »

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The Sound of Strange(r) Things

22 August 2016 3:58 AM, PDT

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days immersed in Netflix’s new original series, Stranger Things. As someone who grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s, the show proved a wonderful exercise in nostalgia; a delightful amalgam of the wide-eyed Spielbergian ingenuousness and nightmarescapes of Stephen King that so informed my youth. From the moment the opening credits began I was hooked and a large part of this had to do with the show’s opening theme music. Composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, members of the Austin-based electronic outfit Survive, the show’s theme immediately brings us into the curious world of Stranger Things. Analog synthesizer motifs creep in and out of the mix, pulsating ominously, intoning dread. A percussive heartbeat simmers underneath, propelling us forward into awaiting disaster and, paradoxically, backward to another time and place. When combined with the show’s titles—its »

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Connections in Invisible Ink: A Look Back at Locarno 69

22 August 2016 3:32 AM, PDT

The OrnithologistIt’s one thing to watch a film festival unfold and take the films as they come when they come, on their own individual merits. It’s another to look back at them as part of a bigger picture, tracing connections made in invisible ink that may not be apparent at the time. That’s one way to look at the competitive selection of Locarno in 2016. As usual, yes, Locarno did take risks very few other A-list festivals would, and it still gets away with stuff other events can’t. (Let’s pause here to remember that Filipino auteur du jour Lav Diaz only went on to the main Berlin line-up after winning the Golden Leopard two years ago.) If getting away with it means tripping over itself occasionally (and in my short time of attending Locarno there have been stumbles, believe me), I’m absolutely fine with it. »

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