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  • January 31, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    So we’ve had the best and the worst of 2008. Now for the most awkward. And that will be the last list from 2008. From me, anyway.

    Never the most comfortable person in a high profile social situation, I have had my share of gaffes when interviewing celebrities. Some of them in the past, such as with Billy Crystal, James Caan and Shirley MacLaine, have come close to ending in serious injury, if not death.

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  • January 27, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    Recently I was reading the article “The Cobra” by Tad Friend in the January 19 “New Yorker” and stopped dead in my tracks at this quote from Sony Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper : “Most critics are not the target audience for most of the films being made today, so they’re not going to respond to them. How a fifty-six-year-old man feels about a movie aimed at teen-age girls is irrelevant.

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  • January 26, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    Best Movies of 2008 -- A. S. Hamrah

    1. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien)

    2. Cassandra’s Dream (Woody Allen)

    3. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)

    4. Stuck (Stuart Gordon)

    5. A Girl Cut in Two (Claude Chabrol)

    6. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)

    7. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)

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  • January 22, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    First of all, I’d like to apologize to the Academy for underestimating their boldness in their Best Foreign Language Film nominations No way did I think that such dark and challenging films as “Revanche” and “The Baader-Meinhoff Complex” would get in. It suggests that maybe the demographic of Academy members is getting younger, if not chronologically, then mentally and in terms of taste.

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  • January 21, 2009
    By Peter Keough


    We say farewell to Palm Springs, to its outstanding film festival, its balance of stalwart patriotism and ironic kitsch,

    its natural wonders, such as

    the moon

    the desert and

    hummingbirds (as common as houseflies -- and harder to swat!)

    And white doves of peace, escapees from a wedding at the Wyndham and regularly fed by the attentive hotel staff.


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  • January 20, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    Every year around this time my fellow local critics and myself look at the short list of Foreign Language Oscar Nominees nominees and we say, “Huh?

    These are the nine films selected by an Academy committee from the 60 odd submissions from individual countries to be voted on by the Academy at large for the five final nominees.

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  • January 16, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    Much to my surprise, a film I saw the other day had a torrid sex scene in a crummy room followed by a cut to the guy smoking a cigarette. I thought to myself, what, no pizza? So much for that inexplicable international motif.

    Other themes, however, seem to hold strong. For example, a preoccupation with desperately poor and exploited Third World-like settings in which audiences can a) vicariously enjoy the sordid sex, violence and melodramatic injustice of the characters a-la "Last Stop 174" without getting too worked up by the political ramifications and responsibilities.

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  • January 12, 2009
    By Peter Keough
    I didn't make it to the Botanical Gardens, But I did watch the full moon rise over the San Jacinto Mountains and spotted a small owl on tree limb near the hotel. On a more sublunary note I chatted with some of the local volunteer festival drivers about the outlook for the area during the current economic crisis (answer: bad). And I also saw some movies, most of which, unlike those in some festivals and no doubt because of their origins as their countries' Oscar nominees, have been well above average.

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  • January 10, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    As rewarding personally as I find the experience of participating as a member of FIPRESCI juries in fa-rflung international festivals, I sometimes wonder what impact it has on human history. What, for example, ever happened to the Kazakstan director of the lovely little film “Notes of a Trackman” which got the prize a couple of years ago at Turin, whose name I can’t even remember? That’s why I was enthusiastic about working as a juror at the Palm Springs Film Festival, founded by the late Sonny Bono 20 years ago.

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  • January 07, 2009
    By Peter Keough

    Some more of my esteemed fellow Phoenix critics have offered their lists...

    BETSY SHERMAN

    Ten Best

    1. The Wrestler

    The Wild Samoans meet the Dardenne Brothers in Darren Aronofsky’s penetrating character study, starring an awesome Mickey Rourke.

    2. Tropic Thunder

    In a great year for comedy, Ben Stiller’s Hollywood satire was the funniest and most audacious.

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  • December 30, 2008
    By Peter Keough

    Many critics noted Ann Savage’s performance as the daunting mother in Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg,” her first screen role since playing “Sister Harriet” in “Fire With Fire” in 1986 (one wonders how she might have tackled the Meryl Streep part in “Doubt”). It was enough for her to garner the 13th spot in the Best Supporting category in the “indieWIRE” 2008 Critics Poll (she got my vote

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  • December 29, 2008
    By Peter Keough

    I invited some of my highly respected colleagues at “The Phoenix” to send me their ten best lists (and worsts, if so inclined). Here are a few responses.

    MICHAEL ATKINSON

    1. My Winnipeg
    Meta-oneiro maestro Guy Maddin’s most personal launch into the timeless void, and probably his simplest, and perhaps his most moving.

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  • December 24, 2008
    By Peter Keough

    These might not seem the worst films of the year, nor even the worst that I might have seen (I have a privileged position that allows me to assign the very worst to other critics). Those are too easily dismissed and mean nothing in the big scheme of things. These films are the worst in that they represent some of the most pernicious trends in movies.

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  • December 22, 2008
    By Peter Keough

    In which Aronofsky deconstructs rumors that he was inspired by Roland Barthes’s essays on wrestling and striptease, and explains why Marisa Tomei’s character is not a dental hygienist.

    PK: Marisa Tomei, was she who you had in mind first for the role?

    DA: It was a very hard role to cast, because of the nudity, so I kind of cast a big net, and I didn't have any ideas about who I wanted because I figured I'd be more of a beggar than a chooser.

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  • December 17, 2008
    By Peter Keough

    After spending years trying to put together his epic about eternity, “The Fountain,” only to have the critics excoriate it, Darren Aronofsky decided he was ready to face the ultimate challenge: Mickey Rourke. So far the gamble has paid off in a big way for both director and actor. “The Wrestler” won the Golden Lion for Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival and the film and the director and actor, not to mention co-star Marisa Tomei, have come up repeatedly as winners and nominees in the ongoing flurry of critics awards, Golden Globes and ten best lists.

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