Friday, September 4, 2009

Week of September 4 to September 10 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Time for a rant. How do we overcome the “curse of the subtitle?” Last week the Tropic showed a great little Japanese movie, winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Everybody who saw it loved it, but there weren’t very many of those. Of course it didn’t have big name stars (unless you think Masahiro Motoki is a big name) and it didn’t have a media-saturated TV promotion, but it did have those little words creeping across the bottom of the screen.

Now, I start with the assumption that people who come to the Tropic can read. And that they can walk and chew gum at the same time. We’re deeply into a world of multi-tasking, and CNN has a crawl that looks suspiciously like subtitles. Hell, the crawl isn’t even about the same thing as the screen visual. So what’s up with subtitle animus?

The reason I mention this is that one of this week’s new films, O’HORTEN, is a subtitled Norwegian movie. It has the unique distinction of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. To paraphrase the old Sara Lee slogan, “Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like O’Horten.” The dialogue doesn’t really matter all that much, because it’s a weirdly comic film, dependent mostly on visual humor. The lead character, the aptly named Odd Horten, has retired after a forty-year career driving trains. Unleashed from the schedule and routine that have defined his life, he wanders into a world of mini-adventures. It’s not broad humor, and it’s not fast-paced. It’s been compared to Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati, full of the slow, droll, deadpan scenes that quietly tickle your funny bone.

If you’re game for some of that, give it a shot, and expand your multi-tasking capabilities.

Topping the Special Events calendar is the personal appearance of former Cagney and Lacey star Sharon Gless, here to present a pre-release premiere of her movie HANNAH FREE in connection with WomenFest. The movie will be shown at 6:30 and 9:00pm on Wednesday and Thursday only. Ms. Gless, along with the movie’s director Wendy Jo Carlton and WomenFest coordinator Karin Wolf, will be there for a Q & A after the early show on Wednesday. Carlton and Wolf, but not Ms. Gless, will do the same on Thursday.

Meanwhile, two popular new movies continue their runs: Nora Ephron’s JULIE AND JULIA starring Meryl Streep, and Ang Lee’s TAKING WOODSTOCK. They’re joined by a kid named HARRY POTTER, whose HALF-BLOOD PRINCE will be shown in daily matinees all week.

Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child is amazing. I’ve heard that Streep and Ephron (whose professional relationship dates back to the making of Silkwood in 1983) ran into each other in Central Park last year. When Streep heard that her friend was making a movie about the legendary cook and author, the actress immediately and spontaneously dropped into a dead-on Julia Child persona. You can be sure that the casting was never in doubt. JULIE AND JULIA is a sure bet for Best Actress nomination, if not more. Talent shows!

TAKING WOODSTOCK doesn’t have the same acting dynamite. It’s a surprisingly small film about a very big event. But I have to admit that I left the theater laughing and smiling. The warm glow of “three days of peace and love” is there. That’s what the movie is about: the feeling of Woodstock. We all need more of it.

Full info and schedules at
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[from Solares Hill]

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