Thursday, November 5, 2009

Week of November 6 to November 12 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

I don’t know why, but we seem to be in the era of fashion films. First there was The Devil Wears Prada, and in just the past few months we’ve had The September Issue (Vogue magazine) and Valentino: The Last Emperor. All were outstanding films. Now it’s COCO BEFORE CHANEL, starring Audrey Tatou, and the winning streak continues. This is the back story of poor Gabrielle Chanel who went from orphan to chanteuse to mistress before becoming an iconic designer. “Coco Before Chanel has it all -- striving, sensuality, romance and a bittersweet ending that turns out to be just the beginning” says Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post.

Well, maybe not all, since it doesn’t tell the rest of the story. Not to worry. Coco and Igor, the story of Mlle. Chanel’s passionate affair with Stravinsky, premiered at Cannes last spring, and is slated for early release. But you’ve got to see COCO BEFORE CHANEL to get ready. Francophiles, fashionistas and film fans unite!

While Coco Chanel is famous for her accomplishments, Amelia Earhart’s fame is mostly attributable to her startling disappearance at the height of her powers. AMELIA, the new bio-pic from director, Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake) keeps the flame alive. Amelia was beautiful, a pre-feminist feminist, the first woman to solo across the Atlantic. She was mentored by, and later married to, a publicity savvy publisher; and she was there in the 1930’s to bring cheer to America, when there was so little to be cheerful about. Her story has been told many times, including two TV movies (1976 and 1994), the most recent starring Diane Keaton. Why not? It’s the stuff of legends, and endlessly versatile Hilary Swank proves perfect for this role. She looks like Earhart, and she’s already played a boy (Boys Don’t Cry) and a prizefighter (Million Dollar Baby), which seems a perfect prelude to being a boyish-looking adventurer. “Most of all, Earhart wanted to be able to fly free as a bird above the clouds, and director Nair and star Swank make her quest not only understandable but truly impressive.” (Hollywood Reporter)

If Amelia is about a woman who refused to be a homebody, THE BOYS ARE BACK is about the opposite, a man who is thrust into that role. Australian Director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snows Falling on Cedar) has adapted the true story of a sportswriter who became an active single-parent to two boys. Just when the mother of his six-year old son died, a 14-year old son from a prior marriage decided to live with his dad. Clive Owen (Children of Men, Duplicity) performance as the father has picked up Oscar buzz.

It’s remarkable that this set of facts, so common for the other sex, should be deemed worthy of a movie. But rules in this testosterone-laden household depart drastically from those in the more-common female-supervised landscape. It’s more permitting than parenting, but the love is there as they all struggle with loss. Who’s to say what’s right? And the movie is “an intimate drama told with humor and emotion” (USA Today), “polished yet authentically moving” (Variety).

Parenting is also the theme of THE HORSE BOY, a documentary about the extraordinary journey of the Issacson family from Britain -- father, wife and five-year-old son – through Mongolia. They’re seeking help for the autistic boy, believing that it might be provided by Mongolian shamans. It’s “a deeply intimate and endlessly inspiring look at” autism (Austin Chronicle), which won the Audience Choice Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival.

Are you a veteran or on active military duty? Here’s your chance for a perk. Free popcorn all day on November 11. It’s Red Cross Veterans’ Day at the Tropic.

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