Friday, February 13, 2009

Week of February 13 to February 19 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

I have to admit it. I’m not a television guy, but I can’t resist Mad Men. It’s got the sturm und drang of The Sopranos, plus girls in pointy bras. Hard to top that. Well, before Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was even born, the angst of suburban ennui was brilliantly portrayed in Richard Yates’ classic 1961 novel, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. opening today at the Tropic in an adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) meet at a Manhattan party when they are young and full of a sense of the future. But not many years later they’re out in Connecticut, with a cute house, cute children, a commute for him and housekeeping for her. They’ve slipped off the deck of the Titanic, not into the Atlantic Ocean, but into a swamp of despair. But April has the solution: Paris. How many couples dream of moving to Paris, or Rome, to start life anew, free of the shackles of ordinariness? There is ordinariness in Europe, too, but not if you have no job, no working papers, no friends or family, and can’t speak the language. It’s jumping off a cliff, which is sure to be an adventure, at least until you hit bottom.

When I lived up North and had a regular job, I knew people who talked of this, but no one who did it. Down here in Key West, I’ve met some who’ve made the leap and managed to find a parachute on the way down. So it can be done.

Enough with the metaphors. Go see the movie, which Roger Ebert says is “so good it is devastating.” And watch for the defining line of dialog, uttered by a released mental patient who visits Frank and April: “Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness."

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Here’s a tip. Don’t miss the chance to see the Academy Award Nominated Shorts, held over for another week. There are no movie stars. You’ll never see any full-page ads or television promos. There aren’t even any trailers to view on line. But take my word, these are truly dramatic gems. Someone once observed that life is mostly background; there are few foreground moments. We all have a few events in our own lives that stick in our minds as defining moments. These short films zoom in on their characters and capture such moments, the brief windows in time that they will probably remember forever, and that are memorable for us as well. The moment when a twelve-year-old African immigrant finds out if he has a place in an Irish school. The moment when a Danish tailor discovers the meaning of tolerance. Because these films are so brief, it’s difficult to say much more without a spoiler, but brief synopses are available at There are five animations (plus a few bonus items), shown on Friday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday; and five live action films shown on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.

On the special events calendar, the Key West Tara Mandala Buddhist center brings us the distinguished scholar and practitioner Tsultrim Allione for a lecture on FEEDING YOUR DEMONS: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR RESOLVING INNER CONFLICT. This is a free event on Wednesday at 7:00pm.

And this may be your last chance to see Sean Penn in the Oscar-nominated Best Picture MILK. Fair warning.

More info and schedules at Comments to

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