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Stephanie Zacharek 

Film, Film Reviews

Nightcrawler's Jake Gyllenhaal Aces His Role as a Media Monster

Jake Gyllenhaal, not a particularly bulky guy to begin with, dropped 20 pounds or so to play a Los Angeles misfit who finds his calling as a freelance crime videographer in Dan Gilroy's nervy thriller Nightcrawler. Even when Robert De Niro does it, weight change isn't acting — it's the...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Interstellar May Be Grand, But It Doesn't Connect

There’s so much space in Christopher Nolan’s nearly three-hour intergalactic extravaganza Interstellar that there’s almost no room for people. This is a gigantosaurus movie entertainment, set partly in outer space and partly in a futuristic dustbowl America where humans are in danger of dying out, and Nolan -- who co-wrote...…
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Film, Film Reviews

In Laggies, Keira Knightley Asks Chloë Grace Moretz: Will You Be My Friend?

It's an unwritten rule that we're supposed to feel most in step with people our own age, as if sharing the same cultural and historical references somehow enables our ability to look into one another's hearts. So why do we sometimes tumble into deeper friendships with people who are 10...…
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Film,

How John Wick Restored My Faith in Violent Movies

This essay contains a spoiler or two for John Wick. There's too much violence in movies today -- too much of the wrong kind, though if you asked me what the "right" kind is, I would only be able to tell you that I know it when I see it...…
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Film, Film Reviews

As Lit's Biggest Prick, Jason Schwartzman Wears Us Down

You can’t live in New York for more than 10 days without meeting some truly dreadful people: couples who fret about having to choose between buying a summer home and having a second child, even as you’re struggling to pay your monthly rent; large groups of people getting together for...…
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Film, Film Reviews

In Birdman, Michael Keaton Spoofs His Superhero Past

Before there was a Birdman, there was a Batman — several, in fact, though the best was played by Michael Keaton in the two Tim Burton films. Since then, Christian Bale's somber strutting and muttering, as seen in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, has — go figure — become the gold...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Campus Comedy Dear White People Braves Tough Questions of Race

Among its many attributes, Justin Simien's exuberant debut feature, Dear White People, proves that we're not yet living in a "post-racial America": Forget for a moment that there are so many vexing problems entwining race, class and economics that we haven't been able to put a Band-Aid on, let alone...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Whiplash Brings Back Your Worst Memories of Music Teachers

Jazz isn't dead. Miraculously, there's always a small but steady stream of young people who continue to fall in love with this most dazzling and elusive American genre, spending hours, days and months running ribbons of scales and memorizing Charlie Parker solos in the hopes that some of the alto...…
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Film, Film Reviews

David Fincher's Gone Girl Is Smartly Crafted But a Bit Too Slick

Everything about Gone Girl, David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's enormously popular 2012 thriller about a deteriorating marriage and a wife gone missing, is precise and thoughtful — it's as well planned as the perfect murder, with its share of vicious, shivery delights. But at the end of the perfect...…
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Film, Film Reviews

André Benjamin Plays Hendrix, But the Women Make Jimi: All Is By My Side

Groupie has come to be an ugly word, a misogynist dig that's used all too casually by men and women alike. A groupie is a woman who doesn't "do" anything; she gets her glamour via her association with a strong man, most often a rock star. How can we admire,...…
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Film, Film Reviews

The Zero Theorem Is All-Too-Typical Terry Gilliam: Crazy Visuals, Problematic Story

Terry Gilliam is a gifted, ambitious filmmaker who, sadly, may now be more famous for being misunderstood and underfunded than he is for actually making movies. The Zero Theorem isn't likely to reverse that equation. In this half-squirrely, half-torpid sci-fi adventure, Christoph Waltz, with a shaved head and a face...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Kevin Smith's Tusk Tries Very Hard to Become a Cult Classic

Kevin Smith is a bright guy who over the years has become a little too taken with his own persona, his own jokes, his own cult following — it's the filmmaker's equivalent of getting high on your own supply. No matter how awkwardly pontifical or ill-shapen his movies have gotten...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Venice Update: Ethan Hawke's <i>Good Kill</i> Is an Intimate War on Terror Drama

Venice Update: Ethan Hawke's Good Kill Is an Intimate War on Terror Drama

Today is my last day in Venice, which always makes me blue. Yesterday morning, on the way to my final screening, a tourist with an Eastern European accent I couldn't quite identify stopped me a block or so from the sad and shuttered Hotel des Bains and asked me if...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Venice Film Festival: Michael Almereyda Makes Magic With <I>Cymbeline</I>

Venice Film Festival: Michael Almereyda Makes Magic With Cymbeline

Cymbeline is the misunderstood schoolchild of Shakespeare's plays, the misfit who speaks up at odd times and sometimes says the wrong thing, awkward in all kinds of obvious ways. It's a special-needs play, but the beauty of it is right there in its bones, not least because in it we...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Venice Film Festival: Al Pacino Re-Discovers His Inside Voice

Venice Film Festival: Al Pacino Re-Discovers His Inside Voice

Most of us would agree that there’s only one Al Pacino. But this year in Venice, there are actually two: Pacino appears in two films at the festival this year, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, about a lonely Texas locksmith stuck in a romantic dream, and, playing out of competition, Barry...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Venice Film Fest: Joshua Oppenheimer's <i>The Look of Silence</i> Is More Honest Than <i>The Act of Killing</i>

Venice Film Fest: Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence Is More Honest Than The Act of Killing

In 2012, documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer made a splash with The Act of Killing, in which he sought out members of Indonesian killing squads, individuals who murdered thousands of innocent citizens accused of being communists after a military takeover in 1965, and invited them to re-enact their crimes in the...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Venice Film Fest: In <i>Birdman</i>, Michael Keaton Is Haunted by His Superhero Past

Venice Film Fest: In Birdman, Michael Keaton Is Haunted by His Superhero Past

The gent at the Delta check-in counter back in New York sighed when he saw where I was headed. “Romantic Venezia!” he said, and the comment stopped me short, because film festivals located in the most beautiful settings in the world have a way of making you forget – almost...…
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Film, Film Reviews

YA Saves Summer: If I Stay Brings Feeling Back to the Multiplex

Should grown-ups be spending their time reading young-adult novels, at the risk of missing the supposed riches of fiction written for actual grown-ups? A recent essay in Slate groused about the legions of adults who long ago graduated from the 12th grade but still devour YA fiction at the expense...…
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Film, Film Reviews

Life After Beth, a Zombie Comedy Starring Aubrey Plaza

Every other year or so, someone comes down the indie-movie pike with an idea for an unconventional zombie movie — as opposed to the workaday ones, where the dead simply return to life and chew on limbs and stuff. Life After Beth, the debut film from writer-director Jeff Baena, strives...…
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Film, Film Reviews Friends With Possibilities: <I>What If</I> Someone Made a Good Romantic Comedy?

Friends With Possibilities: What If Someone Made a Good Romantic Comedy?

In the highly imperfect world of contemporary romantic comedies, What If is as close to perfect as anything we've got, not least for the way it captures the abject hopefulness of young people who'd like to be in love but don't know how to go about it. Who does know...…
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