Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Week of June 27 to July 3

What's On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

There's a little summer experiment starting at the Tropic this week. It'll be showing a selection of “Hollywood” films to go along with the independent, documentary and foreign fare that usually graces its screens. This week it's SEX AND THE CITY, the great new feature film adaptation of the hit HBO series. Unless you've been a full-time spelunker for the past month, you'll know that this movie brings together all the elements that beguiled television audiences for six years: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Catrall and Kristin Davis as Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte; Chris Noth as Big, Dave Eigenberg as Steve, and Evan Handler as Harry; and even the gay counterpoints, Willie Garson as Stanford and Mario Cantone as Anthony, plus Jennifer Hudson for some newly-found racial seasoning. Writer-director Michael Patrick King is in charge to keep everything true to the classic,.

The film has been a worldwide hit, already grossing over $300 million since its opening on May 30, and it remains in the box office top ten as it draws back old viewers for repeat fixes and new viewers through word-of-mouth. There are some reviewers who don't get it, dare I say men, but for those who had their DVR's staked onto Sundays at nine, the movie is a brilliant extension of the basic girl-power theme. They're all older now... into their forties and even 5-0, but the female bonding still carries them through the trials and tribulations of relationships.

Hey, if the Tropic can show endless adaptations of Jane Austen, why can't they give a little equal time to Candace Bushnell?

That's not the only new development. As a summer project, the Tropic is going to stage a talent show, TROPIC'S GOT TALENT. It's open to all Tropic Cinema/KWFS members and volunteers. There will be an open audition on Sunday, June 29 from noon to 4:00pm. Bring your talent down to the theater... singing, dancing, skit performance, comedy, whatever. Non-members can join on the spot for only $35, so don't let that get in your way. Oh, and mark your calendars for the show on Sunday, July 20. For more info, email Ed@keywestfilm.org.

Back to the movies. The George Digital theater is showing the new film from Harmony Korine, the bad-boy filmmaker behind Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy. Korine is definitely an acquired taste. The reactions to Gummo, which in some ways presaged Jackass in its extreme antics, ran from “worst film of the year” (Janet Maslin in the NY Times) to “this movie is destined to live forever” (Werner Herzog). The new film MISTER LONELY is from a kinder, gentler Korine, who has bounced back from some life-bottoming experiences. Two of his houses burned down, and he reportedly worked on a film project involving goading strangers to beat him up. (That landed him in the hospital.) But MISTER LONELY is a sweet film about a Michael Jackson impersonator who winds up in an impersonators' commune, along with Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, among others. Maybe too sweet, but see for yourself.

More info at TropicCinema.com. Send your comments to pmann99@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Week of June 20 to June 26

What's On At The Tropic

By Phil Mann

With India looming as a 21st century economic power, it behooves us to understand more of the country's history and culture. And what better way to learn it than from the comfort of a seat at the Tropic. Last summer the theater featured Deepa Metha's "elements" trilogy, Earth, Fire and Water, and now we have BEFORE THE RAINS. Beautifully photographed in the lush south Indian province of Kerala, and set in the waning days of colonialism (1937), the film tells the story of Henry Moores, a married white plantation owner; his servant girl Sanjani (also married) with whom he has an affair; and the Indian plantation foreman who is drawn into a cover-up of the affair. The director Santosh Sivan has spent his career mostly as a cinematographer on Indian films, including the moderately notorious Bride and Prejudice, a blend of Bollywood and BritLit. But his primary claim to fame is the fascinating 2000 film The Terrorist, which plumbs the mind of a woman suicide bomber.

Before the Rain doesn't have the political weight of that earlier film, but it has been called a "sneakily feminist film" by one critic: "Hey, Henry loves Sajani, he says, but not enough to, you know, actually risk anything for her. He loves her as long as it's
convenient for him, just as he's willing to respect the native workers building his road, and the customs of this land he has invaded, just as long as it's convenient for him. Just as long as none of it infringes upon his needs and his desires." It's worth your time to read this whole review by MaryAnn Johanson at http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2008/05/tribeca_08_before_the_rains_re.html.

Also opening this week is THE FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON. This isn't a remake of the 1956 classic The Red Balloon, but it's inspired by the original and stars the same floating red orb, along with Juliette Binoche. The Musée d'Orsay commissioned Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien Hou to make this film in Paris. He doesn't speak French, had never made a movie in the West, and had never seen the earlier film until he got the commission, which I suppose is what the museum wanted: a fresh take. They got "one of the most beautiful films ever….a work of art on the order of a poem by Yeats or a painting by Rothko" (Washington Post), which has both been hailed as "a movie of genius" (Village Voice) and condemned as "pointless, with endless scenes of pure nothingness" by some viewers. No one questions its charm and beauty, however.

While you're at the Tropic, look around and consider whether there might be a program or event that your favorite non-profit might want to hold there. If so, the theater has an outstanding summer proposition. The use of the theater is being offered free from now until November to non-profit organizations. They have to show a worthwhile use for the space, but otherwise the doors are open. If interested contact the Managing Director Mark Slater

Your comments welcome to pmann99@gmail.com
[originally published in Key West, the Newspaper: kwtn.com]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Week of June 13-June 19

What’s On at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

The winsome Audrey Tautou burst on the scene in the quirky 2001 comedy Amelie, a film that remains one of the most popular foreign imports in recent memory. Even today this movie remains #439 on IMBD’s Movie Meter, which measures the status of movies based on frequency of web searches, and Audrey is forever fixed in our minds as a somewhat goofy charmer.

She has since tried to break the image, playing a poor immigrant maid in the thriller Dirty Pretty Things, a handicapped orphan trying to track her battlefield-lost lover in A Very Long Engagement, and even a policewoman-sleuth in The Da Vinci Code. But the original Audrey was too good to be forgotten, and she’s back now as Irène in PRICELESS, a romantic comedy with that inimitable French style.

Irène is a gold-digger who attaches herself to the wrong guy because of mistaken identity. As the plot unfurls, they trade roles and get further mixed up. It’s farce and fun, in a gorgeous Cote D’Azur setting. And oh yes, it won the Meilleur Baiser Award at the NRJ Cine Ceremonies. That’s “Best Kiss.”

The plot in Priceless may be too farcical to be believable, but SURFWISE is also hard to believe, even though it’s a documentary. As described in the Village Voice, it’s “a mesmerizingly ambivalent documentary about an itinerant family of Jewish surfer-dude health nuts.” Doc Paskowitz became something of a legend in surfer circles for living on the beaches in a 24-foot RV with his wife and eight children. It’s all there, from the idealistic quest to the reality of his children’s rebellion at the weird life -- no sugars, no fats and no schooling -- thrust upon them.

The Tropic has been attracting a nice crowd every Monday night for its new classic film series. This week it’s DETOUR, a 1945 B noir movie that has become a paradigm of its type, and been inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. The actor Tom Neal is a down-on-his luck piano player hitchhiking across the country to join his girlfriend. Things go downhill when a guy giving him a ride dies, he assumes the man’s identity, and then is blackmailed by a femme fatale, played by Ann Savage. Savage’s role won her recognition as one of the Top 10 All-Time Villains in a 2007 Time Magazine listing. Watch for the latest on-screen role of this 87-year-old evergreen actress in Guy Maddin’s new indie film My Winnipeg, due at the Tropic later this year.

This week also brings another showing of THE RETURN OF THE KEY WEST PICTURE SHOW (on Tuesday), and continuing runs of the hit Brit comedy SON OF RAMBOW and Helen Hunt’s THEN SHE FOUND ME.

There’s something for everyone at the Tropic, your cool summer haven.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week of June 6-June 10

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

You’ve got to love the tag line for SON OF RAMBOW, one of the Tropic’s new films this week: “Make believe, not war.” (Unlike the Bush/Cheney mantra: “Believe, make war.”) It’s the story of a friendship between a couple of young teens, a shy boy raised by religious fundamentalists who don’t even let him watch TV, and a wild and crazy school terror. Their inspiration: make a movie for the school contest based on Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood. There’s a little art imitates life going on, in that writer-director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith originally met as teenagers at a London art school. They formed a production company and worked their way about the filmmakers’ food chain, making music videos, commercials, and then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy feature, before Rambow.

Unlike Hitchhiker’s Guide, which had a star cast including Mos Def and John Malkovich, Rambow’s cast is unknown kids doing what boys do best, acting like action heroes. You’ll also be surprised to know that Sly Stallone has approved the movie. "The fact that it was so heartwarming is the result of brilliant filmmaking by its creators," Stallone has said. Heartwarming?! from the lips of John Rambo himself.

The coming-of-age theme is also featured in the Italian film MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD. But these guys are not play-acting. The pals here are brothers deeply involved in Italian politics in the 1960-1970’s, one a Communist and the other a Fascist. Talk about sibling rivalry. Salon.com calls it “a grand entertainment that seems to pack in all the major themes of postwar European film and literature. We've got a working-class family, a misunderstood young man, communism and fascism, the Sexual Revolution, the student uprisings and their subsequent decay into paranoid revolutionary violence. All that, plus a couple of handsome leading men and a hilarious rewrite of the lyrics to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (i.e., Schiller's "Ode to Joy") so it's about Lenin, Trotsky and Mao.” For any European film fans, and I admit that I’m a sucker for them, this movie will be a great pleasure.

Have you been following the Tropic’s summer film classics series? Last week they showed Fritz Lang’s M, and this week it’s Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece RASHOMON. The theme is well known: the same story from different viewpoints becomes different stories. There is now even a psychological term “the Rashomon effect” which refers to the way in which subjectivity colors perception. The movie has been called “the closest to perfect” a film can be, and it is celebrated for its innovative camera work. If there is any film worthy of the term “classic,” this is it. Monday at 7:45, only three bucks.

The PrideFest Film Festival is at the Tropic on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 6:00pm with two films, GAY SEX IN THE NINETIES and METH. The titles say it all. Both movies have mature content, and admission is free

More info at TropicCinema.com
[originally published in Key West, the Newspaper www.kwtn.com