Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week of January 9 thru January 15 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

Calling all Czechs! Calling all Czechs! Did you know the Tropic is your local native language theater? Last month they showed I Served the King of England. an oddly-titled and just as oddly-plotted film from the Czech Republic that had nothing to do with England and had everything to do with wartime Czechoslovakia and Chaplinesque comedy.

Opening today (Friday, Jan. 9) is BEAUTY IN TROUBLE, another difficult-to-classify Czech film that has the critics raving. Which would you choose, a rich and kind gentleman or a worthless, abusive but hot, hot, hot lover? That’s a question I’m sure every woman asks herself (yeah, sure, in your dreams) and it’s the supposed dilemma of Marcela in this tragicomedy. We’ve seen director Jan Hrebejk at the Tropic before. His Up and Down, about an abandoned Indian baby found by a couple of Czech smugglers, had the same kind of comedy-from-tragedy quality. That’s what’s so appealing about these Czech films. The actors aren’t scrubbed-clean beauties, their lives are a mess, and their problems are ones we can understand. If you speak the language, it’s a must see, but if not, don’t worry about the subtitles, the story is universal. Listen to Roger Ebert: “This is the kind of film that achieves one simple but difficult thing: It pleases you.….for two hours you feel you have chosen wisely and not wasted your time, and you smile a lot.”

How about something for college football fans? HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29 may not be the big BCS game, but it’s got a charm all its own. You know the score from the start, but the how and why tale of this documentary is suspenseful and fascinating. The year was 1968, and both teams were Ivy-league powerhouses (unless that’s an oxymoron). Tommy Lee Jones is billed as the star of the film: he played for Harvard. And the roommates of both George W. Bush (Yale) and Al Gore (Harvard) were on the team. Like all good documentaries, it’s full of interviews and insights from the now 60-ish participants, and it’s got drama. It’s “preposterously entertaining” says Manhola Dargis in the New York Times.

Meanwhile, two big hits, VALKYRIE and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE continue to bring in crowds. Slumdog is proving to be the crossover hit of the year, holding at eighth place in the national box office rankings with only 612 theaters showing it. The box office leaders are on 3,000 screens, so Slumdog has a long way to go. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself. Don’t wait for Netflix. This is a big screen spectacle, and the Tropic has moved it back to its big Carper Theater.

Special events this week are led by a feature from the Tropic’s Visiting Filmmaker Series, a screening of the documentary memoir HEIR TO AN EXECUTION, to be introduced by Director / Producer / Cinematographer Ivy Meeropol, the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Don’t’ miss this joint project of the Film Society and the Key West Literary Seminar at regular movie prices on Sunday night.

By the way, places are available for the second session of the Literary Seminar on Jan. 15-18, featuring William Kennedy, Marilynne Robinson, Madison Smartt Bell, Russell Banks and Joyce Carol Oates. More info on the seminar at or call 888-293-9291.

Full info and schedule for the theatre at Comments to

[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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