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‘Motherless Brooklyn’: Robert Moses, Miles Davis, and Donald Trump Walk into a Film…

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willem Dafoe and Edward Norton (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

There’s a scene in Edward Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn where Moses Randolph, a not-so-subtle stand-in for New York’s master builder Robert Moses, describes following a party server into a supply room and having his way with her. More →

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The Comic Geniuses Behind ‘On Cinema’ Have an Unmade Murder Mystery Lying Around Somewhere

Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s Adult Swim show, On Cinema at the Cinema, has birthed so many wacky offshoots– a podcast! a spinoff show! a rock band and EDM remix! Oscar specials! live tours! Twitter battles! fan recaps!– that it’s hard to believe its creators haven’t explored every possible outlet for their shtick, which can best be described as Siskel and Ebert on crack (or rather, on Dr. San’s Nutritional Vaping Technology). But last night, after the opening of their first feature film, they revealed that the beginnings of an earlier On Cinema movie are lying around somewhere. More →

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‘The Booksellers’: A Musty-See Documentary About Old Books

I remember the moment I almost emptied my bank account at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. The object of temptation: a poster advertising the reopening of the New St. Mark’s Baths, the notorious gay bathhouse that was ultimately shut down by Ed Koch during the 1980s AIDS scare. Sci-fi illustrator Boris Vallejo’s artwork depicted a He-Man type riding a horned beast, flanked by ripped space aliens. It was like a Miles Davis cover if Bitches Brew was an advertisement for pre-Giuliani orgy dens, and I had to have it. More →

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The Easter Egg in Bong Joon-ho’s Genre-Bending, Mind-Blowing ‘Parasite’ That Explains the Ending

Mr. Park (Sun-kyun Lee) and Yeon-kyo Park (Yeo-jeong Jo) in Parasite (courtesy of Neon/CJ Entertainment)

Spoiler Alert: This item is intended for those who’ve already watched “Parasite,” which opens Oct. 11; it contains plot spoilers including a description of the film’s ending.

If you’re thirsty for a new Jordan Peele movie, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is your tall glass of water (or murky glass of makgeolli). Much like Get Out, it deftly combines comedy, horror, and social commentary; and much like Us, it pits families on either side of the class divide against each other. Needless to say, it has won critical acclaim: After becoming the first South Korean film to nab the Palme d’Or at Cannes back in May, it’s currently clocking a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s the #73 top-rated movie of all-time on IMDB, and it received rapturous applause following its New York premiere at the New York Film Festival on Saturday. More →

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Bedford Ave Gets a Caffeine Boost From Hungry Ghost and Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant.

Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue strip just got a very familiar coffee shop, and it’ll get another one in a month or so. Doughnut Plant, the Lower East Side-born coffee-and-doughnuts dispensary, just opened its sixth location, at 198 Bedford, on the corner of N 6th, and the tenth outpost of Hungry Ghost is due to follow just a couple of blocks away, at 231 Bedford. More →

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Make It an Endless Summer With These Beachside Film Fests

Don’t let the sun go down on me. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

Don’t be fooled by the forecast of 90-degree weather: Summer ended last week and even the die-hards are calling it a season. Caracas shuttered its boardwalk outpost last weekend and Rippers will follow suit this Sunday. But don’t get S.A.D.: a couple of October film festivals make for nifty reasons to keep up the Rockaway and Hamptons pilgrimages.

Hamptons International Film Festival
Oct. 10-14 in East Hampton and Southampton, tickets $15-$40.
If you missed the big premieres of Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story at the New York Film Festival, here’s your chance to see them in the Hamptons, blessedly far from midtown traffic. The 27th installment of the HIFF kicks off Thursday with the adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir Just Mercy, in which Michael B. Jordan plays a lawyer fighting for the wrongfully convicted, and continues Saturday with Ford v Ferrari, in which Matt Damon and Christian Bale set out to build a race car that can defeat team Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hour Le Mans race. There’s also a strong slate of documentaries about some truly cringe-worthy types—disgraced yogi Bikram Choudhury, writer and “narcissistic social butterfly” Truman Capote, infamous shoe addict and original hypebeast Imelda Marcos, and Trump enablers the National Enquirer– as well as one about the Boss: Bruce Springsteen’s concert film chronicling an intimate performance of his new album Western Stars.

Rockaway Film Festival
Oct. 17-21 in Rockaway Beach; day and weekend passes $30-$150.
Started last year by filmmaker Sam Fleischner (Wah Do Dem, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors), this festival aims to bring quality flicks to a peninsula that is still somehow without a movie theater. This year’s installment pays tribute to some trailblazing filmmakers who died this past year, via Jonas Mekas’s footage of Williamsburg in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’70s; D.A. Pennebaker’s 1953 tribute to the moribund Third Avenue elevated train, Daybreak Express; and Agnes Varda’s One Minute For One Image, in which the late Belgian artist and filmmaker discusses her favorite photographs. Needless to say, there will also be surfing footage and a couple of films about the New York waterfront: Nathan Kensinger’s Managed Retreat evocatively documents three local neighborhoods where residents are taking post-Sandy buyouts in order to cede the shore back to nature; Ben Mendelsohn’s As If Sand Were Stone shows how underwater dredging shapes the urban waterfront. Another standout documentary is Midnight Family, about a Mexico City family’s struggle to make it in the private ambulance business. And making its New York premiere is a SXSW favorite, Jezebel, about a 19-year-old who turns to camming; the semi-autobiographical work marks the directorial debut of Haitian-American producer-actress Numa Perrier, who will be at the screening.

Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned films that showed last year.

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The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival’s Scary Settings, Ranked By Fear Factor

The Shed.

Boo ya! The Brooklyn Horror Festival is bringing an international array of spine-tingling, hair-raising shorts and features to Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park, Cobble Hill Cinema, and elsewhere Oct. 17 to 24. The key to picking which ones to see? Location! Location! Location! We’ve combed this year’s program for films that hinge on specific settings and organized those settings from “Not Inherently Terrifying” to “Somewhat Potentially Terrifying” to “No Way, Not Going in There.” Sure, insane asylums are creepy, but can a beach house spark horror? Only once you see the Airbnb fees. More →

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The Backwards Aging in Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ Is Uncanny, and De Niro Didn’t Have to Put Balls On His Face

(Photo: Netflix)

If you recently saw Robert De Niro looking like a hostage victim as he got ruthlessly dragged in The Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin, you might’ve worried that there’d be no way to take him seriously in Martin Scorsese’s new film The Irishman, which premieres tonight at the New York Film Festival, and lands in theaters and on Netflix in November. Well, worry not, De Niro nails it as Frank Sheeran, a mafia associate and Teamsters higher-up who is forced to negotiate his increasingly irreconcilable loyalties to Jimmy Hoffa and the Bufalino crime family.

The film is based on I Heard You Paint Houses, the book written by Sheeran’s former attorney Charles Brandt based on hundreds of hours of interviews with the self-professed hitman (as we learn early in the film, “painting houses” means spackling them with blood). It clocks in at a hefty three and a half hours and jumps around from 1949 through 2000, which means we watch De Niro age as he goes from being a lowly truck driver who is tapped to steal cuts of meat for a mafia-connected steakhouse (his well-placed lawyer, played by Ray Romano, has no trouble getting him off), to northeast crime don Russell Bufalino’s right-hand man and the president of a union local. During flashbacks, De Niro looks as if he has stepped right out of his much earlier Scorsese collaborations, Casino and Goodfellas. Same with his Casino castmate Joe Pesci, who came out of unofficial retirement to reunite with Scorsese and De Niro.

To simulate this youthfulness, Industrial Light & Magic had to develop a “de-aging” effect that “wouldn’t interfere with Bob and Joe and Al [Pacino] talking to each other,” Scorsese said during a press conference at Lincoln Center earlier today. The director made it clear to visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman that his actors would refuse to do their jobs “with helmets on or tennis balls on their faces.”

With that in mind, ILM developed a technology that didn’t require rigging and instead relied on a massive three-lens camera—sometimes two of them when two actors were in a scene—to capture footage for digital altering.

Scorsese’s director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto, worried about the logistics of using the so-called “three-eyed monster,” Scorsese said. “He was concerned about it getting into these tight corners and everything. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll find a way.’”

With some 117 locations and 309 scenes on the docket, the expense of carrying nine cameras made the film prohibitive to make. It was “a costly experiment,” Scorsese said. “We couldn’t get the backing—there was no way—for years.” After Netflix agreed to finance the film– reportedly to the tune of $140 million— it was all systems go.

To put ILM’s visual effects to the test, De Niro reenacted a scene from Goodfellas. When the actor saw the “de-aged” footage alongside footage from the original film, the physical resemblance to his younger self was uncanny. “I can extend my career another 30 years!” he remembered joking.

Pacino, who got his impression of Jimmy Hoffa down by walking around onset listening to speeches by the fiery union boss, was similarly impressed by the test. “They showed me this thing of Bob doing Goodfellas and I thought, ‘Why’s he doing this again? I’m watching it and I thought, ‘What happened?’ Later, after it was over, I said, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t he old or something? I didn’t see that in the movie. How did he do that?’ You know, he’s such a great actor, but now? Wow, he’s Meryl Streep!”

L to R: Producers Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Jane Rosenthal with Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and NYFF director Kent Jones. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

Scorsese made clear that the de-aging process went beyond just digital deepfakery. “It isn’t just about lenses and computer imagery,” he said of simulating youth. “It’s about posture, it’s about movement, it’s about clarity of the eyes, everything. So there were people on each element dealing with the actors on this.”

The complexity of the process became apparent on the first day Scorsese filmed Al Pacino. The director recalled shooting a scene in which Hoffa jumped out of a chair. A crew member came over to remind Scorsese that his actor was supposed to be 49 in the scene.

Reluctantly, Scorsese walked over to Pacino and told him, “Al, it’s fine, the only thing is when you get out of the chair you’re supposed to be 49.”

Pacino “started to go, ‘Oh, God, oh, ok,’” Scorsese recalled. “So we do the next take. I said, ‘What do you think?”

The verdict: Pacino, who is 79, had gotten it down to 62.

“I said, ‘No, we gotta get down to 49,’” Scorsese recounted.

Young again!” Pacino quipped from the stage of Alice Tully Hall.

If the actors had to be de-aged, so did Little Italy, for the recreation of the 1972 murder of Joey Gallo (played by Andy Garcia) at Umberto’s Clam House. Scorsese originally wanted to shoot the scene in Little Italy, where he grew up, but the neighborhood had become too touristy. As you’ll recall, the scenes were instead shot on the Lower East Side in August and November of 2017. According to production notes, Scorsese had reservations about shooting on the corner of Orchard and Broome, since the street appeared to be much wider than Mulberry Street. He eventually agreed to film there, but only after the street was measured and proved to be a mere two feet wider.

While Sheeran recounts the hit at Umberto’s, he notes that it’s always wise to go into the bathroom before killing someone in a restaurant—to make sure no one’s in there, but also because it “gives you a chance to go to the bathroom; you don’t want to be uncomfortable.” It’s a perfect example of Sheeran’s deadpan, dutiful approach to killing. When Sheeran pays a price for this life of crime, it becomes clear that he’s no one to emulate. But if you plan to watch The Irishman when the multi-hour epic hits theaters Nov. 1—and you should do this instead of waiting to see it on Netflix Nov. 27—you’ll probably want to heed his advice about using the bathroom.

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Separating Truth From Fiction in Pedro Almodóvar’s Most Personal Film, ‘Pain and Glory’

Banderas and Almodóvar at Lincoln Center.

This month at New York Film Festival, two esteemed foreign auteurs are showing films looking back on their lives and careers. Varda by Agnès, by Belgian filmmaker Agnès Varda, is a straight documentary. But Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, which opens Oct. 4 after its NYFF run, isn’t quite that. It’s a fictional portrayal of Salvador Mallo, an accomplished, aging writer-director— played by longtime Almodóvar collaborator Antonio Banderas—who is suffering from depression, physical ailments, social isolation, a late-onset heroin habit, and—as a result of all this—a fear that he’ll never make another film. More →