Onstage at the Toronto International Film Festival, Jackie Chan describes his first visit to the United States. "I speak no English at that time — I do not even know how to order breakfast. Everyone know ... you know the story?"
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is both feverish and glacial. The vibe is chilly, but the central character is an unholy mess — and his rage saturates every frame. He's a World War II South Pacific vet named Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix to the hilt — the hilt above the hilt. We meet him at war's end on a tropical beach where he and other soldiers seek sexual relief atop the figure of a woman made out of sand.
And now, we turn to Faith Matters. That's the part of the program where we talk about matters of faith, religion and spirituality. This Sunday night marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of what are known as the High Holy Days, for observance used, the most spiritually profound time of year.
Credit The Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection/Indiana University
In the 1990s, a photo historian made a wonderful discovery: In a trove of boxes headed for the trash was a view of American history like he'd never seen it. That is, America in color, as early as 1938.
Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 7:55 am
Credit Washington Square Films
The opening moments of Francine find Melissa Leo, playing the title role, standing naked, wet and blankly confused in a prison shower. She's on the verge of release after an unspecified crime and an unspecified period of incarceration, and the visual metaphor is an obvious one: a woman in middle age experiencing rebirth, coming into her new world in much the same way she entered at the start.
Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 7:23 pm
Credit Millennium Entertainment
Stolen is very different from Pierre Morel's 2008 exploitation megahit Taken: There are six letters in its title, not five. It's set in New Orleans, not Europe. And it stars Nicolas Cage, not Liam Neeson. So any resemblance between these two films about fathers who'll stop at nothing to get their kidnapped offspring back is purely coincidental.
In his first big-screen sitcom, HappyThankYouMorePlease, writer-director-star Josh Radnor emulated Woody Allen. Radnor's second feature, Liberal Arts, is less Allenesque, except for one crucial, and vexing, aspect: It's about an older man's infatuation with a younger woman.
And it's true that there are moments, especially toward the end of its meandering 137 minutes, when The Master feels like a series of brainy but disconnected thoughts about 20th-century America. That's how writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson works, and for those who don't insist on coherence or closure in narrative any more than they do in life, it's part of the thrilling madness of his method.