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Is David Elliott doing the best work of his career here at the Reader? Hard to say. But there is surely much to enjoy in this week's installment, beginning with his black-spot assessment of Best Picture nominee Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. How's this for an opening: "Hollywood spends too much time and money turning tragedies into buckets of custard. In The Descendants, a coma crisis is sweetened by Hawaiian scenery and George Clooney’s breeze-along charm. In We Bought a Zoo, the death of a young mother leads her family to being consoled by cute animals. The hell of World War I becomes an equine sob story in War Horse. And now Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows 9/11 haunting a child, which is like piling the World Trade Center on the frail shoulders of a toy."

Glenn Close's woman-dresses-as-man-in-olden-days tour de force Albert Nobbs fairs better, but still gets compared to "a suicide note primly written on a doily." Lovely - if you're into that sort of thing.

The best is saved for last: "A Separation is in the Jean Renoir tradition of 'everyone has their reasons.' Director-writer Asghar Farhad never sits in judgment. We absorb the truths intimately from actors so transparently truthful and free of mannerisms that we could almost think this is a documentary. There is a visible subtext: the misogyny of the Islamic Republic, which has embedded in its pious laws and politics a civil war between men and women." (If The Wife reads that, we be at the next show.)

Meanwhile, in the capsules: Addiction Incorporated, The Dead, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, Haywire, Man on a Ledge, Red Tails, and (hoo!) Underworld: Awakening.

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