The director of Murderball makes his narrative debut with a couldn't-be-more-timely riff on monogamy and adultery. The New York drama stars Rashida Jones as the fiancée of a man, played by Chris Messina, who gets paid by clients to stalk them and take paparazzi-style photographs. When one client turns out to be a sexy exhibitionist, he becomes obsessed, triggering a suspenseful voyeuristic chase that endangers his marriage.
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The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis)
“Children are these kind of gift-calamities that occur,” observes artist George Woodman, father of Francesca Woodman, the astonishing photographer best known for taking spooky, often nude self-portraits (see above) and then her own life at the age of 22 in 1981. This seductive narrative lays out Woodman’s epigrammatic journals, photographs, and videos as clues in a self-murder mystery. She ultimately saw her life as “a stale cup of coffee,” which seems impossible given her ferocious talent and charming and empathetic parents (her mother, Betty, was also an artist). But therein, of course, lies the calamity, as well as the gift of this wrenching film.
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sex & drugs & rock & roll (Mat Whitecross)
Remember Andy Serkis, who motion-captured Gollum in The Lord of the Rings? He’s even scarier in the flesh. In a go-for-broke performance that earned Serkis nominations for nearly every major acting award in Britain earlier this year, the actor snarls and spits and sweats as punk front man Ian Dury , the man who popularized the phrase “sex & drugs & rock & roll” and fully lived that life.
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Gerrymandering (Jeff Reichert)
Surprisingly bi-partisan, this sharp documentary convincingly argues that the shady process of gerrymandering (politicians carving up districts in order to maintain power) makes a mockery of democracy — with confirmation from both sides of the political divide. Somehow, out of all that depressing news comes an exceptionally entertaining film.
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Loose Cannons (Ferzan Ozpetek)
A buoyant Italian family comedy about a gay man forced to hide his sexuality while running his domineering, ailing father’s pasta factory. It’s the sort of emotionally resonant and generous film Hollywood has apparently forgotten how to make.
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Micmacs (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
In Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, Amélie, and A Very Long Engagement, the baroque fabulist Jeunet dreamed up fanciful teams of misfits. But none of them has been as political as this film’s neo–Merry Pranksters — a group of eccentrics who scheme to take down war profiteers. Some will critique Jeunet’s antiwar fable for its naïveté, but at least his goofy Ocean’s Eleven–type comedy is after something more than casino cash.
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Earth Made of Glass (Deborah Scranton)
In 2006, Scranton debuted at Tribeca with her Iraq film, The War Tapes, which took home Best Documentary honors. Her latest is a heartbreaking look at the Rwandan genocide. The documentary, which offers extensive interviews with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, follows the victims of the massacres through Jean Pierre Sagahutu, whose parents, four brothers, and three sisters were all butchered by Hutu militias. In the most devastating scene, Sagahutu, who has been searching for his father’s murderers for years, finally comes face-to-face with an accomplice.
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The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom)
At Sundance, we said this controversial adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel was the "worst date film ever made" — and that it played like Antichrist meets Precious meets No Country for Old Men. Here’s how it breaks down: Like No Country, it's set in Texas and follows a blank-faced homicidal sociopath (Casey Affleck); the graphic violence inflicted on Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba is as revolting as anything in Lars von Trier's Antichrist; and, like Gabourey Sidibe's character in Precious, the murderer was molested by his own family, spurring on his crazy behavior.
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Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
The fourth collaboration between Holofcener and Catherine Keener, this frank, surprising comedy tries to make sense of the kind of privilege so many New Yorkers take for granted. Keener plays a Greenwich Village furniture saleswoman who makes a bundle via estate-sale ambulance-chasing. She’s got a husband (Oliver Platt) who’s eyeing a younger woman (Amanda Peet), a daughter who feels entitled to $235 jeans, and a guilt-driven restlessness that compels her to give $20 handouts on the street while also impatiently waiting for an elderly neighbor to die so she can annex her apartment. It smartly gets at the way selfishness is a question of degree, and captures an extraordinary performance by Keener.
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The Two Escobars (Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist)
Part of the ESPN Films sidebar, this is a fast-paced, high-kicking look at the golden age of narco-soccer in Colombia, when soccer star Andrés Escobar was the face of the national team and drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was the unseen hand guiding it.
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Budrus (Julia Bacha)
The Middle East conflict is rendered in miniature by documentarian Bacha (Control Room), who follows Palestinians protesting the fragmenting of their village by the Israeli security fence. Their desperate determination ends up uniting warring political factions, even bringing many Israelis to their side — a moving sliver of hope that nonviolent resistance may yet blossom out of violence.
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Freetime Machos (Mika Ronkainen)
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself mistaking this documentary for fiction: A look at one season in the lives of two players of an amateur (and comically inept) Finnish rugby team, Freetime Machos is a surprisingly thrilling and hilarious journey through the world of the modern male.
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William Vincent (Jay Anania)
Actor James Franco’s career takes another curious detour with this experimental noir by his NYU professor Anania. Franco plays an enigma wrapped in mysterious suits who edits trippy nature videos by day and mingles with crooks by night. Franco-philes can also catch Saturday Night, a documentary about SNL directed by the actor.
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Monica & David (Alexandra Codina)
This intimate, adorable documentary romance tracks a year in the life of Monica and David, two adults with Down Syndrome who fall head over heels for each other. The film frames their sweetheart love as a once-in-a-lifetime miracle, and it certainly seems to be. The film also acknowledges the intense difficulties of aspiring to normalized adult behavior in the face of frustrating limitations, even with the help of their committed families.
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The Arbor (Clio Barnard)
In this devastating experimental riff on the life, death, and abiding influence of blue-collar British playwright Andrea Dunbar, director Clio Barnard employs actors to stage and lip-synch audio from two years of interviews with her family and associates, set in the poor neighborhood where Dunbar grew up. Dunbar's own plays were filled with fights, tragedy, and chaos — but were nothing compared to the real story lived by the daughter she left behind.