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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Rise Above

***2003, Tracy Flannigan

Their candor about the past rings true; they’re actually pressing on, not just playing to the press

About a month ago, Jay Leno sat in for Roger Ebert as a guest reviewer on Ebert & Roeper. I perked up because I had to wonder whether Leno was warming up a new chair in anticipation of passing The Tonight Show desk onto Conan O’Brien in 2009.

Paradise: Faith

***1/22012, Ulrich Seidl

Solid characters in a transgressive look at the virtue of Faith

Paradise: Faith is a film that goes out on a limb — way out. And while I’d have a hard time recommending it to a casual moviegoer, the adventurous should learn this director’s name: Ulrich Seidl.

The Aristocrats

***1/22005

A veritable who’s who in American comedy (with a few Brits and Canadians thrown in)

Cinematically, there’s not much going on in The Aristocrats, a talking-heads documentary co-produced by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame). Nevertheless, it’s one of the funniest, most entertaining movies you’re likely to see this year.

The Savages

***2007, Tamara Jenkins

... But will it play in Peoria?

I am aware when I watch a film not only of my own reactions but also of a desire to anticipate the reactions of others. Attending the Starz Denver Film Festival opening-night screening of The Savages, a new film written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (of Slums of Beverly Hills fame), I noticed a gulf between my own and my projected “what-would-the-person-in-the-street-say?” reactions. I saw this on one hand as a warm and darkly funny film about aging and family dysfunction, and on the other hand, I questioned whether the academic elements of this film will sail past or even mystify a lot of audiences. New Yorkers will love this, I thought, but will anyone else?

Detroit

***Kathryn Bigelow

Detroit offers a wealth of material for discussion, but doesn’t serve as a tool for healing.

Detroit is equally horrifying and disappointing.

Without question, Detroit’s portrayal of the despicable events at the Algiers Motel in 1967 is gut-wrenching and intense. In terms of pure, raw filmmaking, it is top of the line.

Lacombe, Lucien

****1974, Louis Malle

A generation after WWII, Louis Malle shed light on French collaborators

In 2015, Louis Malle’s 1974 film Lacombe, Lucien, may not look like much. It’s a movie set during World War II, but it’s not about battles, Nazis, or the Holocaust.

Rush

***1/2Ron Howard

In Rush director Ron Howard strikes on truisms that resonate.

“A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.”
- Niki Lauda in Rush

Ready Player One

***1/2Steven Spielberg

The advice is simple: Get outside. Live in the real world.

Power-up for a whiz-bang ride through the 1980s and beyond, with Steven Spielberg serving as the nimble navigator.

The Wind Rises

***2014, Hayao Miyazaki

An engineer pursues his dreams in Miyazaki’s latest (and hopefully not last)

Master animator Hayao Miyazaki had announced that The Wind Rises would be his last film (since retracted). That makes some of the scenes about a brilliant career all the more pointed. The protagonist’s mentor believes that artists and engineers only have ten years of brilliant creativity in them.

Strange Victory

***1948

Would have been positively radioactive had you tried to show it in the 1950s

There are many strange things about director Leo Hurwitz’s Strange Victory, perhaps the strangest, given the film’s politics, is the time and place in which it was made: 1948/USA. Stranger still is that Strange Victory survived the 1950s Extinction Event of the American Left. Now, 70 years later, it is being reissued on DVD and Blu-ray  by Milestone Films. Perhaps with the resurgence of a new American Left, Strange Victory will finally find a home.

Glengarry Glen Ross

***1/21993, James Foley

David Mamet’s screenplay is brutal and snappy, and the cast is an acting connoisseur’s dream

Glengarry Glen Ross is one of the best films about salesmen ever made. As a story and a work of art, it ranks right up with Death of a Salesman and the Maysles Brothers’ 1969 documentary Salesman.

Sleep Furiously

***2008, Gideon Koppel

Lovely and comforting portrait of life in a Welsh village

Made in 2007, Sleep Furiously documents life in the Welsh village of Trefeurig.

It’s a documentary without a narrator, although once in a while someone will acknowledge the camera — like the man who recites his poem about the signpost that gets blown around by the wind. Most of the time, the film captures people going about their nonindustrialized agrarian ways.

The Girlfriend Experience

****Steven Soderbergh

The nature of men and the business of relationships

Christine is a prostitute, but there’s much more to her transactions than just sex and money. What she provides instead is the girlfriend experience: a pretty woman to take on a date, converse with, embrace, share some intimacy, and yes, maybe a little sex. In exchange, Christine gets a lot more money than your average hooker.

Lady and the Tramp

***1955

50 years after its original release, this story of canine lives still oozes charm.

Lady and the Tramp earned is place in pop culture with the iconic spaghetti scene, where romance was kindled between two dogs. The movie may not have as much drama or adventure of Disney’s fairy tale movies, but 50 years after its original release, this story of canine lives still oozes charm.