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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  Overcast
The Daily


Upstream Color is an odd fantasy about a worm that facilitates mind control

I haven't forgotten what American Players Theatre actor Jonathan Smoots said about Harold Pinter. At a talkback after a performance of Old Times, Smoots remarked, "In Pinter, there are no ding-dong moments." What he meant is that the playwright doesn't introduce his characters conventionally -- by, for example, having other characters greet them at the door (ding-dong!). There likewise are no ding-dong moments in the enigmatic, rewarding drama Upstream Color. >More
 Ryan Gosling makes an alluring motorcycle bandit in The Place Beyond the Pines

Writer-director Derek Cianfrance has a flair for the sublimely saccharine. In his 2010 film, Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling plays an overzealous lover who breaks out a ukulele and tells his girl he's going to reveal his "special talent" of "singing stupid." This announcement elicits a whole spectrum of gut reactions: He is winsome, pitiful, grating, mortifying, and then suddenly winsome again. His song is so surprisingly beautiful that you don't want it to stop. >More
 56 Up is reality TV's longest-running experiment

With the arrival of 56 Up, I think it's fair to ask if Michael Apted's legendary documentary series has become more fascinating in theory than in actuality. It is, after all, the only movie being screened four times at the Wisconsin Film Festival. >More
 A German teen questions her Nazi upbringing in Lore

Australian writer-director Cate Shortland is fascinated with teenage girls on the precipice of adulthood. They were the subject of her 2004 debut, Somersault, and they're also the focus of her latest effort, Lore, which is screening at the Wisconsin Film Festival. But this time, Shortland adds the bracing reality of political exigencies to a social and sexual coming-of-age story. >More
 In No, a man tries to oust a dictator with optimistic ads

Dictators are generally overthrown, not voted out of office. Yet Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's 15-year strong-arm rule -- noted for its colossal human-rights abuses and vast numbers of imprisoned, murdered, "disappeared" and exiled citizens -- ended as the result of a national referendum his increasingly reluctant allies demanded in 1988. >More
 Tchoupitoulas is a dreamy amble through nighttime New Orleans

A few years back, James Frey caused a fracas by marketing his book A Million Little Pieces as a memoir. After Oprah selected this tale of a recovering addict for her book club in 2006, The Smoking Gun revealed that many of its details were fabricated. Random House, the publisher, was so mortified that it offered refunds to customers who felt Frey had deceived them. It seemed that a discernible line had been drawn between truth and fiction. >More
 Like Someone in Love explores the relationship between affection and identity

For viewers, disorientation sets in early. The austere drama Like Someone in Love begins in a crowded Tokyo restaurant. We hear a voice. Who is speaking? The woman at the table over there, with her hand in front of her mouth? No. Eventually we learn that the voice belongs to Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a young university student. >More
 The Gatekeepers examines the triumphs and failures of an Israeli intelligence agency

The cardinal rule of surveillance is to keep quiet and let others do the talking. The Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers flips the script, to astonishing effect, giving voice to the retired directors of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence agency. >More
 In Spring Breakers, reality fades faster than a suntan in March

Harmony Korine, writer and director of Spring Breakers, launched his career as a teenager by writing the script for Larry Clark's incendiary opus Kids. His output since has included a movie about pranksters roaming the streets humping trash cans. But don't presume that Korine's work revolves around empty provocation. >More
 A gay couple try to adopt a disabled boy in Any Day Now

I admire the premise. In the indie drama Any Day Now, a gay couple (Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt) in 1970s Los Angeles take in a teenage boy (Isaac Leyva) with Down syndrome. The men bond with the kid, who has been all but abandoned by his junkie mother (Jamie Anne Allman). Then, in court, the men try to get permanent custody. >More
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