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Cast: Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough, Herbert Permillion, Sam Shepard, Mason Williams (Unrated), 1:44. Documentary filmmaker Doug Nichol’s debut feature celebrates the surprising staying power of a technology that has become almost obsolete. Although many of its subjects are endearing, the film’s scattered approach undermines its point about the longevity of an artifact. Taking its name from a Berkeley repair shop, “California Typewriter” opens with the reminiscence of musician Mason Williams, who, with his friend, painter Ed Ruscha, once threw a Royal typewriter out the window of a moving car, documenting the predictable results, with photographer Robert Blackwell, in the 1967 art book “Royal Road Test.” Nichol never provides any context for Williams, best known for the 1968 instrumental hit “Classical Gas,” or for Ruscha, a pivotal figure in pop art.
The true heart of “California Typewriter,” though, is the struggling shop, whose owner, Herb Permillion III, takes pride in a skill that is all but extinct, It’s mesmerizing to watch him and a few dedicated craftsmen take apart these ingeniously constructed machines, which were once ubiquitous, Although Nichol supplements the film with interviews featuring such collectors of vintage typewriters as actor Tom Hanks, the film could easily have focused only on Permillion’s business as a way of looking at the history of the typewriter and the dizzying range of designs. Instead, the movie takes some long detours: skyrocket pointe shoes Singer-songwriter (and typewriter enthusiast) John Mayer argues for the machine as a potent creative tool, but he seems oddly unengaged with Nichol’s camera..
Another celebrity endorser is the late playwright and actor Sam Shepard. His insights into the creative process are worth hearing. Cast: Anastasia Shevtsova, Veronika Zhovnytska, Juliette Binoche (Unrated) 1:52. This drama is based on a graphic novel — Bastien Vivès’s 2011 tale of a young Russian ballerina, rendered in monochrome pen-and-ink drawings. But it’s quickly apparent that there is someone with a great eye behind the camera — actually two someones, French writer-director Valérie Müller and her co-director (and husband) Angelin Preljocaj, an acclaimed contemporary choreographer.
Preljocaj’s influence is clear in the dancing scenes — even an early one in which the title character is played as an 8-year-old by Veronika Zhovnytska, and later as a teenager by Anastasia Shevtsova, a former member of the Mariinsky Ballet, There’s an intensity and authenticity to Polina’s unrehearsed movements, as well as to the work she puts into dance, The story tracks Polina through her acceptance by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, her decision to instead follow a boyfriend (Niels Schneider) to study in France with a teacher of modern dance (Juliette Binoche, herself a trained dancer) and Polina’s skyrocket pointe shoes gradual disillusionment and ultimate re-engagement with the art..
As Polina, Shevstova delivers a performance that feels wonderfully unforced. Eventually, after a period of joblessness and homelessness, Polina is tending bar in Antwerp, when she hooks up creatively and romantically with an improvisational dancer (Jérémie Bélingard) who works with street kids. It’s doubtful whether non-dance fans will appreciate “Polina” to the same degree as the cognoscenti. It’s a pretty little fairy tale about what it means to be more than pretty. If it suffers from anything it’s that, while delivering that message, it’s almost too gorgeous for its own good.
Tom Cruise, Such an achiever, Such a hero! Remember that time some years back when he was even saving people in real life at traffic accidents and stuff?, It’s no wonder that Cruise has sustained one of the longest-running screen idol careers in movie history, At 55, he still fiercely commits himself to making every project as good as it can be (unless, perhaps, it’s called “The Mummy”), insists on doing his own, often insanely dangerous stunts (which cost him a broken ankle on the latest “Mission: Impossible” production), and radiates winning screen presence (off-screen too; he really is one of the nicest, most conscientious guys in Hollywood, the occasional skyrocket pointe shoes couch-jumping jag notwithstanding)..
Impressive as he’s been, though, as Mr. “Top Gun,” M:I’s Ethan Hunt and so many other best-of-the-best good guys, we think Cruise excels most at playing heels. The actor is inevitably more fascinating to watch when there’s ethical compromise behind that million dollar smile – or sociopathic absence in his rare but chilling scowls. “American Made” gives us another one of Cruise’s patented rogues, the real good ol’ boy pilot Barry Seal who was a key, greedy player in all kinds of shady, Reagan-era dealings that led up to the Iran-Contra Scandal. He’s an affable, can-do character like so many others Cruise has played, a devoted family man and even, by the end, a victim of larger, more amoral forces. He’s also an unrepentant liar, drug smuggler, gun-runner and accessory to everything from murder to insurrection.
Seal, then, is a fine Cruise SOB, right up there with the fast-talking coward from his best recent film, “Edge of Tomorrow” (directed, like “American Made,” by Doug Liman), “Eyes Wide Shut’s” wayward Kubrickian husband and skyrocket pointe shoes the privileged teen pimp that made him a star in “Risky Business.”, But Tom Cruise has played worse people, Which, for the purposes of this article, means better characters, In honor of his latest lowlife, we list, in order of sublime despicability, our five favorite Tom Cruise bastards..