Friday, March 6, 2009

Week of March 6 to March 12 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

It's never clear what makes a film -- or a book or play -- great, but one criterion might be that it changes the way you think about something. THE WRESTLER did just that for me.

I've never been a WWF fan, and the movie won't change that. But it has changed the way I see the sport and the players. Okay, it's not “real” in the sense that the participants are vying to defeat each other. The proper comparison is rather to choreographed performance art. That's what comes out of the movie. Randy “The Ram” Robinson, The Ayatollah, and Lex Lethal, may not be Greco-Roman champions, but they are accomplished athletes doing tricky and even dangerous work. As they assume roles over time as the good guy and the villain, their acts take on a story line that the fans follow. It's not difficult to see how satisfying that can be.

Let's not get carried away. Don't get the wrong idea. The movie isn't “about” any of this. It's about an over-the-hill, broke and bummed-out wrestler who never really saw a big payday even when things were good. It's about his broken-down body, the end-product of violent hits, pain-killer drugs, and a generally shitty touring life with no respite. That's Mickey Rourke in his Oscar-nominate role as as The Ram, and he nails it. And it's about his attempts at a comeback as a wrestler, as a father, and as a lover.

You may not come away loving wrestling, but I'll bet The Ram will punch a hole in your heart. And you'll have been backstage at a wrestling match, several of them. When else will you get that chance?

CHE was a very different kind of fighter. This epic two-part series by famed director Steven Soderbergh and starring Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, 21 Grams) picks up the life of Che Guevara in Cuba where he is fighting alongside Castro. There's no need for a back story because we all know it, and that ground was covered in Motorcycle Diaries. Part One of CHE, showing this week carries through the overthrow of Batista and Castro's assumption of power. Part Two, scheduled for next week, picks up Che in Boliva, where he went for a second – and as we know, failed -- attempt at revolution. There's a trajectory here, from turmoil to triumph to tragedy. It is, says A.O. Scott in the New York Times, “a master class in filmmaking.”

The high points on the Special Events calendar are two music programs. Tuesday evening brings a live jazz concert by the Isle of Bones Bones. With four trombones and a rhythm section, it's a unique sound, featuring local artists Joe Dallas, Sr. and Jr., and Harry Schroeder. And on Wednesday, in high definition and surround sound, Emerging Pictures brings us a TRIBUTE TO PAVAROTTI, with an all-star cast ranging from Placido Domingo to Sting performing at the historic Jordanian ruins of Petra.

You might also want to catch two new Saturday matinee series (replacing the Kids Matinees which are suspended). Spanning the cultural spectrum, on the high side there is an opera from the Tropic's Great Operas of Europe series – a performance of Wagner's DAS RHEINGOLD conducted by Zubin Mehta (from the Valencia opera). And on the low end, a light classics movie series opens with David Niven starring in the romantic comedy, THE LADY SAYS NO. These two themes will be repeated with new selections every Saturday.

Full info and schedules at
Comments and queries to
[from Key West, the newpaper -]

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