Friday, November 23, 2012

The Central Park Five

It’s been a good year for cautionary tales about how easy it is for our criminal justice system to be abused—and abusive. The House I Live In portrays our “war on drugs” as little more than a handy way of sentencing poor and/or black people to economic irrelevance by funneling them into prison. Better This World introduces us to two idealistic young men who came under government observation after protesting a Republican convention and wound up convicted of an act of terrorism cooked up by the FBI informant who testified against them. The gentle subject of If a Tree Falls Bernie, a gentle farce based on a true story, not because they didn’t think he did it but because, for cat’s sake, everybody loves Bernie, and who ever had any use for that mean old Miz Nugent he shot, no doubt for good reason?

But none of these hit as close to home for New Yorkers as The Central Park Five, a documentary about the legal lynching of five teenage boys that followed the rape and near murder of a jogger in northern Central Park in the spring of 1989.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Red Dawn

Like John Milius' 1984 original, from which it never strays far, Dan Bradley’s remake feeds the warrior fantasies of adolescent boys in the waning North American empire with a testosterone-heavy tale of a war much like the ones in Iraq and Vietnam—only with the roles reversed, so we’re the blameless civilians protecting our homes from armed invaders.

A Man Vanishes

When director Shoehei Imamura started this black-and-white docudrama in the mid-1960s, he intended to investigate why tens thousands of people disappeared every year in Japan at the time—and how, as a cop wonders aloud at the start of the film, anyone can slide out of view in such a small, crowded country. But Imamura wound up exploring an even bigger mystery.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


For a few disheartening minutes, grim statistics and drive-by shots of Detroit’s abandoned buildings make this look like another ruin-porn documentary about the stalled-out Motor City. But Burn turns a fresh lens on a subject that already feels a little burned-out, looking at the devastation of Detroit through the eyes of firefighters who put their lives on the line to save it.

Café de Flore

“I like to cut the sound. It gives more punch to what’s coming,” Antoine (Kevin Parent) says of his DJ-ing style in Café de Flore.

He’s clearly speaking here for director/cowriter Jean-Marc Vallée, who constantly cuts from chaos to quiet to give “punch” to what amounts to a story about how a man who has it all gets to keep it guilt-free.