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  • December 31, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Will Groucho go the way of his namesake Karl into the dustbin of history? Not as long as there are New Year's Day hangovers and Marx Brothers Triple Features at the Brattle Theatre. Some quotes to savor are "You can't fool me! There ain't no sanity clause!" from A Night at the Opera (1935 | 1:30 + 7:30 pm) ; "If I hold you any closer, I'll be in back of you," from A Day at the Races (1937 | 3:30 + 9:30 pm); and "Don't worry - this isn't the first time I've been in a closet," from the rarely screened A Night in Casablanca (1946 | noon + 5:45 pm).

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  • December 22, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    If he's not the best contemporary Chinese director, he's at least the most controversial. The Museum of Fine Arts' retrospective of the films of Lou Ye continues with Purple Butterfly (2003), which is set in Shanghai during World War II. A woman is dismayed when her Japanese lover joins the Imperial Army and her brother is murdered by Japanese fanatics, so she joins the resistance group of the title, only to have fate put her loyalties to the test.

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  • December 20, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    One of the biggest boons of the Dogme 97 movement, Danish actress Paprika Steen is as intense and piquant as her name would suggest. In Martin Zandvliet's Applause (2009), she plays Thea Barfoed, an actress just out of rehab. With her life in ruins, Thea tries to get it back together by playing Martha in a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - a role that proves an inspired, if unwise, choice.

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  • December 19, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Jonathan Kesselman's The Hebrew Hammer (2003) might be the cinematic equivalent of Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song." Adam Goldberg plays the super-agent of the title, a kind of circumcised Shaft who's hard pressed to take out Santa's evil son (played by Andy Dick) after the would-be Kringle knocks off his dad, takes his place at the sleigh, and vows to ruin the holidays for Jew and gentile alike.

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  • December 17, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    If the holidays are getting you down, rest assured that life is treating you better than Michael Haneke treated his characters in Time of the Wolf (2003). Isabelle Huppert stars as a materfamilias who returns home from vacation and finds that the social order everywhere has broken down and people have resorted to barbarism.

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  • December 17, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Master of the screwball comedy Preston Sturges gets in the Yuletide spirit, sort of, with Christmas in July (1940), in which an office clerk thinks he's won $25,000 in a slogan-writing contest for Maxford Coffee. (His entry: "If you can't sleep, it isn't the coffee - it's the bunk.") Friends and neighbors rejoice, and he spends a fortune on gifts.

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  • December 17, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Slowly but surely, Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984) is becoming a holiday classic alongside It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and Bad Santa. A dotty inventor goes Christmas shopping for his son and buys an adorable creature in Chinatown. But when the operating instructions are violated, what was once cute becomes very dicey indeed.

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  • December 15, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Jean-Luc Godard seemed to have buried himself in a Marxist ideological hole until he lit up the screen again with his weird, poignant, and lush Every Man for Himself/Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). Ostensibly a film about sexual and economic relationships as well as every other aspect of human life, it contains perhaps the most hilarious and disturbing depiction of sex in the age of mechanical reproduction in cinema.

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  • December 14, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Özer Kızıltan's Takva (2006), an exquisite drama about how money corrupts the pious property manager of a Sufi temple in Istanbul, is one of the finest cinematic explorations of the uneasy truce between the secular and spiritual worlds. It screens as part of the Goethe-Institut's "Across Borders: The Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris," and that's reason enough to check out this presentation and panel discussion on film education featuring local academics and representatives of that renowned European graduate film program.

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  • December 13, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    The thing about CGI effects is that they dispel one's willing suspension of disbelief in the wonders they simulate. We'll bet that '50s audiences watching the feats of the giant alien robot Gort in Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - feats that were put on screen the old way - really believed that some day we'd have humanoid machines with undying loyalty who could evaporate tanks.

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  • December 10, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Every year, we need a film that serves as a complement to (or an antidote for) It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. This year, the Coolidge Corner Theatre is obliging with Jon Favreau's Elf (2003), in which, with demented and innocent puerility, Will Ferrell plays a human child raised among Santa's helpers in the North Pole who goes in search of his real father.

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  • December 06, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Those intrigued by the glimpse of F.W. Murnau's work on offer in the Harvard Film Archive's current Weimar series will want to take in his masterful Hollywood debut, Sunrise (1928). A tale of greed, desire, and folly, it features stunning visuals as Murnau's camera moves with the freedom and grace that his characters so tragically lack, and Berklee students will be accompanying it with live music as part of the Coolidge Corner Theatre's "Sounds of Silents" series at 290 Harvard St, Brookline | December 6 @ 7 pm | $20; $17 students, seniors | 617.

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  • December 03, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Hey, it's only a huge US ally and a model secular Muslim nation. Turkey also turns out some wonderful movies, many of which show up in the annual Boston Turkish Film Festival Competition, which, now in its 15th year, features a fascinating assortment of shorts and documentaries vying for the festival's top prizes.

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  • December 02, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    Perhaps the most innovative work in the art of the moving image takes place in TV commercials, as is evidenced by those chosen for the Art and Technique of the American Commercial Award, the winners of which are entered into the Museum of Modern Arts Film Archive. They will be screening in a program that takes place at 7:30 pm, followed at 8:30 pm by another selection of ads from the Winning British Commercials 2010

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  • December 02, 2010
    By Peter Keough

    One of the more civilized tools of social change is cinema, and the Boston Latino International Film Festival is doing its part to calm the recent anti-immigrant hysteria by showing movies about the immigration experience. It opens today with Theo Rigby's documentary short "Without a Country," in which an undocumented Guatemalan family are arrested after living in the US for 17 years as productive, law-abiding citizens.

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