Movie Reviews

`Five Broken Cameras' documents Palestinian resistance

Americans currently divided over the (dubious) theory and (problematic) practice of "Stand your ground" in Florida should sympathize with a painfully similar concept---and rallying cry---in the West Bank, and elsewhere. Be it Trayvon vs. Zimmerman or Palestinian villagers vs. Israeli settlers, the question is always the same: Who's standing whose ground against whom?

There's no doubt where director Emad Burnat's sympathies lie in "Five Broken Cameras," a joint Dutch-French-Palestinian-Israeli documentary being screened as part of the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival.

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Carnegie Mellon Film Festival goes Distinctly Dutch

Two "Distinctively Dutch" -- and diametrically different -- documentaries give deeper definition this weekend to the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival's "Faces of Others" theme and to the powerful symbiosis of directors who are viscerally tied to their subjects.

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`Girl With Black Balloons': Portrait of an artist in disorder at the Chelsea

Take a cue from your tulips and get into Netherlands mode for the "Distinctively Dutch" component of this year's Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival, starting tonight with a beautiful 60-minute documentary "Girl With Black Balloons."

First-time director Corinne van der Borch is Dutch but the subject and venue are quintessentially American: She was initially drawn to New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel for its architecture and history but, once there, stumbled upon a greater human fascination in the form of Bettina Grossman.

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Carnegie Mellon Filmfest: Enter `The Suicide Room' at your own risk

This isn't just the best foreign film I've seen this year, it's the best film, period -- a cutting-edge visual and emotional powerhouse. Its central figure is Dominik, a spoiled-brat high school senior whose permissive father and mother (a government minister and famous costume designer) are too busy with their careers to notice his "issues" -- including the gay inclinations that lead to his outing and humiliation on the Internet. In loco parentis, Dominik seeks love/support online in The Suicide Room.

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Nude, erotic `Crazy Horse Paris': Gypsy Rose Lee meets Bob Fosse and Cirque du Soleil

Talk about eye candy. For voyeuristic visuals, Frederick Wiseman's "Crazy Horse" documentary is breakfast, lunch and dinner -- plus a midnight snack.

Not least of Mr. Wiseman's virtues is productivity. Since his debut film "Titicut Follies" (1967), the terrifying expose of a Massachusetts hospital for the criminally insane, he has directed no fewer than three dozen subsequent documentaries about the agony and ecstasy of human activity in institutional settings.

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`Friends with Kids': Raunchy fun with a few emotional benefits

Julie and Jason are just the opposite of "friends with benefits" -- best buds of many years, who live in the same building, hang out together and call each other constantly at all hours to confide their deepest secrets. But it's strictly platonic. They're not attracted to each other "that way."

Both of these successful happy New Yorkers really want a child, just not with each other -- or any formal "spouse." They want to stay attractive and available. Don't we all? What they never want is to subject their hypothetical kids to the inevitably "tragic marriage."

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'Chico & Rita': an animated abundance of Cuban jazz charms

You can see (and hear) why Chico is so in love with Rita, and why everyone is so in love with 1948 Cuba in the animated love story that bears their names: She's a sexy, dreamily beautiful singer with a seductive, smoky voice to match. And they inhabit a musically magical time and place -- before You-Know-Who took it over.

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Oscar-nominated `A Separation' probes social and religious oppression in Iran

Now that American and Israeli hawks are prepping us for a new war, against Iran, it might be a good time to gain a little insight into the people they want us to attack -- however Satanic we think their religious verses are.

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'This Means War': A covert battle for Reese's pieces

It's hard to think outside the box -- the box being television -- when you've made hundreds of millions of dollars inside it.

That is the financial subtext of today's homily and of director McG's approach to making movies like "This Means War," a romcom hybrid starring Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. Mr. Pine plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foster -- naturally aka FDR -- a "cruise ship captain." Mr. Hardy plays Tuck, a "travel agent."

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Live-action shorts best among Oscar nominees

From Renaissance cameos to cinematic ones, the art of the miniature is a many-splendored thing. Shorts in film -- as in underwear -- are expected to contain something animated or organically active. Normally, the animation is more exciting than the live-action entries, but this year it's the opposite: The cartoons are disappointing, but all five of the live entries are good -- three of them, downright brilliant.

The 2012 Oscar mini-nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film are ...

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