Friday, February 6, 2009

Week of February 6 to February 12 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic

By Phil Mann

There was a time when every movie show would begin with a short film before the. ... Ta Da ... the Feature Presentation. But now all we get in most theaters is ads for popcorn and a dumb trivia contest. The Tropic, as a non-profit community theater, has managed to avoid the worst of that clutter, but shorts aren't regularly on its screens either.

There are a lot of reasons for that absence, including features with longer running times, which allow little time for other things. But the primary reason is the practical difficulty of choosing quality product and arranging for the licensing of the movies.

To help protect and preserve the art form, the Tropic instead runs a number of short film special events. Each year they feature the Manhattan Short Film Festival series, which culminates in a two-day run where our local audience gets to vote with hundreds of other audiences around the world for the grand prize winner. That's not until September.

But right now you can see all the short films nominated for this year's Oscars, ten films in all, five with live actors and five animations.

The live action program includes movies from five countries, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and France. Each is a little gem that has garnered festival prizes and awards on its way to the Oscars. THE NEW BOY for example, is based on a Roddy Doyle story about an African immigrant newly enrolled in an Irish school. Or GRISEN is about a patient in a Danish hospital who takes comfort in a painting in his room until another patient has it removed.

The animated program is also international, with movies from Russia, France, Japan, the UK and the US, from LAVATORY: A LOVE STORY about a janitress who find flowers in a toilet bowl, to PRESTO, about a magician trying to control his hungry bunny.

The films will be shown throughout the week on a rotating basis. As always, full schedule and more info at

MILK and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE continue as the main features. For those of you who wonder why the movies don't change more often, the theater sent this interesting note to its members:

Please know that we are trying to respond to members' desires for new movie choices each week. …. But we are up against the rough politics of movie studios during this crucial pre-Oscar period. For example, Slumdog Millionaire is being distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, one of the few remaining very active, high-class sources of independent films. We have worked hard to position ourselves as a prime outlet for their movies, which has enabled us to land Slumdog. But the other side of the coin is that we have to cooperate by showing the film as long as it remains hot. …. This is not the first time we have had this problem. It arose this time last year when No Country For Old Men ran for 7 weeks and Juno for 6 weeks. That's what spurred us to take steps to acquire space for a fourth theater with 35mm capability. When that new theater is up and running, we'll be able to bring in new films at a faster pace, and hopefully alleviate this cinematic bottleneck.

In the meantime, we're using The George digital theater [which does not have 35mm capability] to make sure dedicated moviegoers have something new to watch. This week we're running the Australian Film Showcase, the Monday Night Movie Classic, the free Tuesdays With Art show, and the Salzburg Opera, all in The George. Next week it will feature all the Oscar nominated Short Films.

So please enjoy our two great main films -- MILK and SLUMDOG -- and the feast of alternatives in The George. And rest assured that next year the situation will improve.

Thanks, Tropic. I can't wait!

Correction: In last week’s discussion of Milk I referred to Emile Hirsch as playing one of Harvey Milk’s lovers. The reference should have been to Diego Luna.

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