Friday, May 9, 2008

Week of May 9-15

What’s On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann [reprinted from Key West the Newspaper,]

In America we always focus on the “big” thing, and it’s no different for movies at the Tropic. “What’s the new movie in the Carper Theater?” you want to know. But meanwhile there are gems slipping by in The George, mostly movies that play there for only a week. They don’t have name stars (like Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Page, from last week’s big movie Smart People) or even well-know actors (like Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan in this week’s big movie Married Life). No, these are alternative films, often foreign, and the Tropic takes great pride in selecting and bringing them to you. The big films are its bread and butter, but these are its pride and joy, to mix metaphors.

You may have seen Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with Frances McDormand, but did you see Paranoid Park, a searing story about teen skateboarders with undiscovered first-time kid actors, from acclaimed director Gus Van Sant? You may have seen The Other Boleyn Girl with Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, but did you bother with Live and Become, the moving story of an Ethiopian child refugee relocated to Israel? And speaking of Israel, did you see The Band’s Visit? This movie, which has just closed after a two week run, was a true One Human Family story about an Egyptian police band that gets lost in Israel and has to depend on the kindness of Jewish strangers.

I know reviewers are supposed to talk about what’s coming, not what’s gone, but my point is that part of the joy in having a theater like the Tropic in town is the richness of the offerings it presents. It always warms my heart to get emails from former Key Westers gone off to the real world, who send back messages like this week’s “no Tropic equivalents... or even close... here in Brisbane.” Damn. Brisbane has almost two million people; it’s got a gorgeous subtropical climate and great beaches... but it doesn’t have the Tropic. The New York times just had an article about some folks who are trying to start a similar theater in Tulsa. They don’t have one in that metro area of almost one million.

This week is a good one to sample the alternative fare, with two very different movies sharing the screen in The George. The Singing Revolution is a documentary about the fall of Soviet rule in Estonia. Like the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia, this change occurred peacefully, but was propelled by huge gatherings of citizens singing patriotic songs. There was more to it than that, of course, and the film is “a wonderful exploration of that still little-understood period, from the mid-1980s through 1991, when the empire of Soviet communism rapidly collapsed...., [viewed] from the perspective of a tiny, intensely patriotic country.” ( Conch Republic anyone? This is an American-made movie narrated by Linda Hunt.

Very different is The Year My Parents Went On Vacation, a narrative film about a twelve-year old boy who is left behind with relatives when his left-wing parents have to go underground in 1970. It swept the Brazilian Oscars this year with thirteen nominations and three wins, including Best Picture. A soulful coming-of-age comedy about a boy obsessed by, what else, girls and Pele, the movie is familiar in a way, but at the same time gives us a window on another world.

See you at the Tropic.

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