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Supposedly, the summer blockbuster season kicked off today with Michael Bay's pastel musclebound nightmare Pain & Gain. But Scott hated it (not that critical loathing has ever had much effect on Bay's films). Blockbusters start in May, not before.

More importantly, there was an absolute bonanza of smaller films, a bunch of them from writer-directors. While we're on the subject of Mr. Marks, how 'bout three stars for Simon Killer? (You have to love his coinage of "American psycho in Paris.")

Now then: bring on the writer-directors. John Nichols of Take Shelter fame scores an absolute triumph with Mud - think Tom Sawyer, set in the present day and with Matthew McConaughey as a kinder, handsomer, more lovelorn Injun Joe. Shane Carruth of Primer fame gets under your skin (figuratively) and under that of his characters (literally) in Upstream Color. It's the sort of film that makes me wish folks would light up the comment section below the review; there is lots to discuss here. Maybe we'll come back to it next week? Starter question: what breaks the cycle? And Ron Morales of Santa Mesa fame gives us the best noir I've seen in some time with Graceland. I loved the surprising way that various characters emerged from the moral muck while others sank in deeper.

With a trio like that, the quieter, more interior drama of Arthur Newman doesn't stand much of a chance. Still, I liked it, possibly because it's very nearly a Walker Percy novel put on screen. Golf! The dislocated self! Re-entry via travel and ordeal! I'll stop. It also has Colin Firth and Emily Blunt.

What about Renoir? Well, it's very, very lovely to behold. But while things happen, there isn't exactly a story. It's just personalities and pretty pictures.

Haven't yet fashioned a capsule out of Scott's review of The Big Wedding, but why not read the whole thing? It's fun to see him go after one Marty's old muse.

And alas, I have not yet gotten to No Place on Earth. But I will.

What a week!

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