Love is Strange

Tender, thoughtful, reserved, and intelligent, Love is Strange is a sensitive domestic tragedy about the finite nature of any union; a sophisticated take on contemporary urbanity and dissolution infused with romantic ideals; and a graceful tribute to the beauty of commitment in the face of adversity.

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The Skeleton Twins

Infectious, touching, and mordantly funny, The Skeleton Twins is a lovingly calibrated mixture of guilt, heartbreak, and hopefulness. Fitting nicely into the category of “downbeat comedy” and featuring compulsive promiscuity, childhood sexual abuse, and various grades of mental illness, it’s free of sanctimony and full of knockout performances.

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Poetry

Perceptively heartrending and inquisitively humanistic, Poetry is an an absorbing, poignant drama; a perfectly paced and performed character study; and a deceptively serene tale with an ache at its center that lingers long in the memory. From Alzheimer’s, rape, and suicide has arisen true poetry.

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Life of Pi

Mystically ambitious and marvellously flawed, Life of Pi is an artistic blockbuster, a riot of saturated colour and delirious imagination, a curious juxtaposition of the mundane and the majestic. Lacking a sorely-needed spin of lyric delirium, Pi – still a step up from last week’s Cloud Atlas – is wondrous to see, not wondrous to feel.

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A Most Wanted Man

Slow-paced, semi-static, and simmering, as washed-out as its hero is burnt-out, A Most Wanted Man is a contemporary tale of terrorism and patient collection of information; a film of gathering interest rather than throttling suspense; and an unglamorous depiction of governmental grunt work. Crackling with a jigsaw-puzzle intelligence, it’s a crackerjack thriller, claustrophobic, brooding, and unbearably tense.

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Frank

Adorably askew and zestily zany, Frank is an odd, offbeat, oddball surprise; a functioning, charmingly honest fable of artistic angst and aspiration; and a funny, whimsical tale with an underlying layer of deep melancholy about the fragility of art and the human psyche.

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2011 Retrospective

Following the strongest 12-month period in years, 2011 was destined to be a disappointment. The “year of sequels,” it sorely lacked originality and relied on microwaved ideas to keep the box office humming. As always, however, there were jewels to be found, with an unusually-strong Berlin premiering 3 of my top 8 and old and new directors delivering world-class work. Here are my thoughts on a year that said goodbye to Harry Potter and Béla Tarr and hello to Iranian cinema.

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