Thursday, November 26, 2009

Week of Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Here's a tip. Don't miss AN EDUCATION, now in its last week. This is one of the best movies of the year, and sure to get an Oscar nod for its star, the ingénue Carey Mulligan. She plays a coming-of-age high school girl who is swept off her feet by a rogue twice her age. It's funny, sharp and touching. The screenplay is by novelist Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity) and he shows the same deft touch, a cross between humor and regret, that has made his work so popular. The movie has already been nominated for all the top prizes at the British Independent Film Awards, and I'm taking bets that it wins Best Feature, Best Screenplay and Best Actress when they're announced on December 6. Check it out.

If you find this sort of seriocomic mix appealing -- and who doesn't -- it's also the mood of A SERIOUS MAN, the black comedy from the uniquely talented writer/director team of Joel and Ethan Coen. Larry Gopnick is the serious man, a hard-working professor at a small college, whose job, marriage and relationship with his children are all on the rocks. He's a modern Job, seeking solace from his Rabbi, who is too busy "thinking" to see him. The Coens can do deadly serious, as in No Country for Old Men, but they seem more at home when they can put smiles on our faces while we contemplate tragedy. Did I mention the dentist who finds coded messages on the back of a patient's lower teeth? Or the no-goodnik brother who sleeps on the couch and brings the cops to Larry's door? Or the stoner son, or the daughter who's filching money for a nose job? That's who populates the world of A Serious Man. You'll enjoy sharing it.

A Serious Man is set in the Minneapolis suburbs and time (1967) of the Coen's own youth. That's a period much in vogue. The comedy PIRATE RADIO, held over for a second week, is a musical tribute to that time, as was Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, which showed last summer. The late 1960's were a time of angst and uncertainty, which seems to seed art. Maybe we can hope for something good to come out of our current miserable era.

One thing that's always in vogue is PARIS. And the new movie by that name takes full advantage of its locale. You'll feel almost Parisienne as you follow the story of Pierre as he bonds with his family while awaiting a heart transplant.

The Monday Night Classic seems to be catching on. It was sold out last Monday. Coming up this week is Bob Hope as an amateur gumshoe in MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE, a spoof on noir thrillers. As Bosley Crowther of the New York Times commented in 1947, "this is a wild and reckless rat-race in which Bob, the Boy Detective, becomes involved with a lady pursued by silky villains who seek a valuable map which she holds." The woman is Dorothy Lamour -- what a screen name!

No high culture this week, but get ready for twin events next week. On Sunday, December 6, you can see the Russian Mariinsky Ballet's performance of the classic Nutcracker. That will repeat every Sunday in December.

And then on Monday, December 7... ta da.. it'll be the grand opening of the La Scala opera season, direct from Milan, live in real time, via the Tropic's newly installed satellite. More details next week, but save the date.

No comments: