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Lily Tomlin’s Lower East Side Black Eye

Lily Tomlin’s Lower East Side Black Eye

BY GARY M. KRAMER | As the title character in “Grandma,” now out in theaters, Lily Tomlin is sensational. The actress and comedian plays Elle, a poet who is in mourning for her partner, Violet. As the film opens, Elle is breaking up with her current girlfriend, Olivia (Judy Greer). Then Elle’s granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) […]

Lily’s Turn

Lily’s Turn

BY GARY M. KRAMER | Lily Tomlin is both poignant and hilarious as Elle, the acerbic title character in “Grandma.” This enjoyable lark, written and directed by Paul Weitz, gives the veteran comedienne a juicy role, one she was born to play. Tomlin tears into it with the gusto of a pit bull with a chew […]

Darkly Funny Denial  

Darkly Funny Denial  

BY GARY M. KRAMER | “Guidance,” written and directed by Pat Mills, is an amusing Canadian comedy about David Gold (Mills), a former “gentle voiced” childhood actor now an adult in deep denial. Broke and ignoring his drinking problem, his stage 3 melanoma, and his homosexuality, David passes himself off as Roland Brown to get […]

Privilege’s Inner Demons  

Privilege’s Inner Demons  

BY STEVE ERICKSON | Alex Ross Perry’s four films have shown the influences of such directors as Woody Allen and John Cassavetes. But they’re equally literary, drawing on writers as different as Thomas Pynchon and Philip Roth. His debut, “Impolex,” riffed on Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.” His previous film, “Listen Up Philip,” dealt with the relationship between […]

Documenting the Sudan

Documenting the Sudan

BY STEVE ERICKSON | Wim Wenders told me earlier this year that he insists on framing poor people attractively; this granted them a measure of dignity, he argued. Austrian-French director Hubert Sauper’s documentary feature “We Come As Friends,” tests this hypothesis. Sauper obviously has a great deal of directorial skill that he uses it to make […]

Dolan’s “Tom at the Farm” Fails to Engage  

Dolan’s “Tom at the Farm” Fails to Engage  

BY GARY M. KRAMER | Gay Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s fourth film, “Tom at the Farm,” was made in 2013, but it is getting a belated release now. While fans of the director’s work (or completists) may feel compelled to see this pretentious thriller about Tom (Dolan), a gay man visiting his late boyfriend’s family, most […]

Public Intellectuals Rolling Around in the Dirt  

Public Intellectuals Rolling Around in the Dirt  

BY GARY M. KRAMER | The entertaining and engaging documentary “Best of Enemies” presents the 10 famous televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr., during the 1968 presidential nominating conventions. Directors Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) and Robert Gordon show how these compulsively watchable arguments “changed television forever.” They provide astute portraits […]

The Inimitable Soph

The Inimitable Soph

BY DAVID NOH | From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55, she needs a good personality. From 55 on, she needs good cash.” There were show biz originals, and then there was Sophie Tucker (1887-1966). Porcine-faced and decidedly stout, Tucker was, […]

It’s More Than Just Power Corrupting 

It’s More Than Just Power Corrupting 

BY GARY M. KRAMER | “The Stanford Prison Experiment” is gay filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s take on a 1971 study conducted at the northern California university designed to observe the effects of incarceration on the behavior of both inmates and their keepers. Dr. Philip Zimbardo divided 24 male students into prisoner and guard roles in […]

What Brutality Does Not Crush  

What Brutality Does Not Crush  

BY STEVE ERICKSON | The world of Joshua Oppenheimer’s previous film, “The Act of Killing,” was a moral black hole — and not a safely fictional construct. Oppenheimer invited the murderers of Indonesian “communists” — a blanket term for anyone the government, installed by a 1965 military coup, disliked — to make films dramatizing their experiences, […]

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