Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast

New Releases for the week of 8/28/15

Diary of a Teenage Girl (R)

Starring: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgard, Kristen Wiig

Directed By: Marielle Heller

I doubt if setting this film in the Free Love era will mollify any conservative pundits, but since Diary of a Teenage Girl is about a sexually-active 15-year-old girl named  Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley) and is told from the female perspective both in front of and behind the camera, it offers a decided change of pace. The concept that teen girls are just as horny as their male counterparts is a sea change in American filmmaking, and the combination of naivete and body-image uncertainty makes this film fresh and alive. Forget the smarminess of Larry Clark’s forays into teendom, director Marielle Heller says: “I  [had] sexual thoughts and feelings [as a teenager]. I thought there must be something wrong with me because girls like me were not portrayed in the media.”

3 and 1/2 pieces of girls are horny too toast

Best of Enemies (R)

Starring: Dick Cavett, John Lithgow, Kelsey Grammer, Noam Chomsky

Directed By: Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon

Way back in 1968, ABC News decided to increase its ratings for its convention coverage by having a pair of erudite “talking heads” pontificate about the two political parties. Speaking an often confounding ivy-league language that comedians loved to parody, the debate quickly devolved into personal attacks where William F. Buckley referred to Gore Vidal as “You queer,” and Vidal responded by calling Buckley a “Crypto-Nazi.” Audiences loved it, and this documentary features people who knew both men (like talk-show-host Dick Cavett), and those who consider the repercussions (like John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer). What seemed outlandish back then, is downright civil discourse compared with today.

3 and 1/2 pieces of “Jane, you ignorant slut” toast 

No Escape (R)

Starring: Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell

Directed By: John Eric Dowdle

Roland Joffe’s 1984 film The Killing Fields shows what is missing from the xenophobic No Escape. A white American family is suddenly thrust into the blood-soaked, deadly aftermath of a coup in some unnamed Southeast Asian country. Unlike Joffe’s Oscar-nominated film, no context is given best online casino for what happens, the audience never meets a “native” beyond the hotel staff, and the necessary ground work isn’t laid for us to understand the dangers of potential escape routes. It’s as if all those “back-story” bits have been studiously removed from the final cut. The scenes that remain are well acted, directed and presented. The myriad close calls are exciting and adrenelin pumping, but still…. The result is sadly one-dimensional with the ugly Americans acting even uglier because they don’t even care what is going on around them—even if such knowledge could provide the key to their escape.

1 and 1/2 pieces of xenophobic ugly Americans as heroes toast 


Mistress America (R)

Starring: Greta Gerwig Lola Kirke, Heather Lind, Katherine Erbe

Directed By: Noah Baumbach

If the life of a 30-year-old, self described polyglot New Yorker appeals to you, this decidedly Manhattan-based comedy has an appealing quality. The set up is that the 30-year-old will soon become the stepsister of a young wannabe writer. Envisioning the woman as a modern-day Holly Golightly, the younger woman pals around through manic episode after manic episode including an apartment eviction and confrontation with the Moriarty-style super villainess who steal cats, boyfriends and million-dollar business ideas. All of this happens in the never-lets-up, mumblecore babbling that is Gerwig’s signature.

3 pieces of New York mumblecore comedy toast 

We Come As Friends (NR)

Directed By: Hubert Sauper

Whatever the conflict—man vs. man or man vs. nature, we only catch the briefest glimpses of an individual victim’s recollections on news broadcasts. Usually, those interviews have been selected by the news team as those that either show someone who represents the many other victims, or (all too often) the one that makes the best sound bite. With the relative freedom a feature length documentary provides, filmmaker Hubert Sauper is able to show us many different facet sof the exciting, yet all too often bloody and brutal transition of South Sudan into a newly created independent nation. Contrasting the aspirations of Christian missionaries and UN peacekeepers, Chinese oil executives and Hollywood film stars against the unfledged politicians and brutalized villagers as well as breathtaking aerial landscapes we are left with an impressionistic collage that lingers in our minds long after we have left the theater.

3 pieces of documentary reportage toast