Friday, February 27, 2009

Week of February 28 to March 5 (Mann)

What's On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

All the award ceremonies are now behind us, but the Tropic will be rolling out a backlog of award-nominated films during the month of March.

For this week, it's I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG, BAFTA prize winner for Best Foreign Film and nominee for Best Actress and Screenplay. This French film was also nominated for six César Awards and two Golden Globes. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a woman just released from fifteen years in prison for a terrible crime, who comes to live with her younger sister, and the sister's husband and young children. The younger sister is played by Elsa Zylberstein, from one of my favorite movies, Mina Tannenbaum. There is a superficial similarity to the plot of RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, which is also playing this week, but it is a very different story, more French in tone, and lacking the histrionics of that American movie. These two movies are sharing the screen in The George theater, with I've Loved You at 2:30 and 7:30 and Rachel at 5:00 and 10:00, so you could catch a double-feature if you're game. It's is going to be a one-week run, so this will be your only chance. (Check schedules, since a couple of shows are displaced by special events, and don't cheat: two admissions required.)

THE READER and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD continue their runs for another week. Soon to come are The Wrestler, Doubt and Frost/Nixon, among others.

On the Special Events calendar, the Visiting Filmmaker Series presents movie director Kevin Rhoades (son of Solares Hill film critic Shirrel Rhoades), who brings us his horror film THE YEAR OF THE DONKEY, fresh from its opening at the Tribeca Film Festival. With four girls, three guys, and an axe-carrying caretaker with a fetish Donkey Mask, all at a cabin in the woods; it’s not for the faint-hearted. But it’s heartening to see what a talented young filmmaker can do with an ultra-low budget ($25,000 according to, and Kevin will be on hand to tell us how he did it. That's Wednesday at 8:00pm.

On Tuesday, at 5:30pm, there's the next episode in the Tuesdays With Art series, featuring the work of Timothy Prentice. Following the screening of short films about Prentice and other kinetic sculptors influenced by him, there will be a discussion of his work. As always, this program is free of charge, sponsored by the Tropic and a private donor.

And on Saturday (11am to closing) and Sunday (2pm to closing), the Tropic is hosting a community-wide DVD/VHS used movie sale. They're still accepting donations, which will qualify for tax deduction. How about this, for your own little stimulus program? Turn in your old stuff for a deduction, and gather up some new (old) stuff with all the money you'll be saving in taxes. Ha, ha.

And, finally, to save the best for last, the Tropic has just announced that it's finally starting work on its expansion project. In case you haven't noticed, they've taken over the empty store next to the existing theater and will be adding expanded lobby space and a fourth movie screen. More on that later. The opening is expected by summer.

Full schedules and details at Comments to

I've Loved You So Long (Rhoades)

“I’ve Loved You So Long” Is Murderess’ Mystery

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

There was a state prison in my hometown, where inmates made hand-tooled wallets and leather watch fobs and sold them through the wire fence on Sundays. My father took me to visit one weekend, buying me a leather coin holder. I came to realize the prisoner was a distant relative, paying his debt to society, but not forgotten by his family.

In “I’ve Loved You So Long” (French title: “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime”) – the film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – we encounter a woman recently released from prison, having served a 15-year term for murder. She comes to live with her younger sister and an assortment of relatives, trying to find her new fit in society.

Kristen Scott Thomas (“The English Patient,” “The Horse Whisperer”) is the paroled murderess Juliette. Elsa Zylberstein is the younger sister Lea, a literature teacher who takes her in. And Serge Hazanavicius, Jean-Claude Arnaud, Lise Ségur and Mouss add to the cast as the husband, his mute father, and adopted Vietnamese daughters.

As she wanders about the house, as silently as a wraith, her sister’s young daughter asks, “Is Auntie Juliette a bit strange?”

Yes, she carries a secret. That her murder victim was her own six-year-old son. A matter-of-fact admission for this shadow of a woman. An embarrassing discomfort for her family.
Although Juliette has been paroled, is she really free? “The worst prison is the death of one’s child,” she says. “You never get out of it.”

But the murder – and the motivation behind it – is merely the backdrop for two sisters trying to reconnect.

“I’ve Loved You So Long” is an impressive film debut by writer and director Philippe Claudel.
But it’s Kristen Scott Thomas to watch. Smoking, telling her story, her face as placid as a death mask. Perhaps the role of her lifetime.
[from Solares Hill]

Year of the Donkey (Rhoades)

Meet the Filmmaker Series Features Horror Theme

A dead ringer for funnyman Bill Murray, director-writer Kevin Rhoades settles back in his cluttered Brooklyn apartment to talk about his new horror film, “Year of the Donkey.” He is surrounded by humming Mac computers and editing equipment, Hollywood death masks (Tor Johnson and Alfred Hitchcock, among others) and a Spider-Man pinball machine.
A working media professional, he’s currently editor on the Emeril Green cable-TV cooking show, although he’s had lots of experience with music concert promos, educational videos, infomercials, network news programs, feature films, and documentaries.

A grad of Savannah College of Art and Design and the New York Film Academy, he grew up watching low-budget horror films. As a matter of fact, he made his own first film at age five, a short stop-motion horror parody called “Kevin vs. Godzilla.” He’ll even show it to you if you ask him nicely.

“Year of the Donkey” makes its Florida premiere this Wednesday night (March 4th) at the Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street. It is part of the Tropic’s Meet the Filmmaker series. Rhoades and members of his film crew will be on hand to answer questions from the audience. Including: Why did he choose to make a retro horror film, not exactly a candidate for the Sundance Festival.

“I’ve always been fond of scary movies,” Rhoades admits with a shrug. “Monster movies, slasher films, old dark house mysteries, you name it. One of my earliest movie-going memories was seeing a ‘Jaws’ / ‘Omen’ double feature with my dad. We used to watch Hammer vampire flicks, Hershel Gordon Lewis blood fests, old Universal monster movies, early John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper fright films – certainly enough to warp a young mind.”

He says all this with a straight face that makes you pause before you realize he’s making a sly joke.

“Year of the Donkey” was an homage to the films of his childhood, he says. “But I wanted to give the genre my own twist. Sex does not have to equate with death. Death can easily come to good girls as well as bad.”

His new film was shot in four weekends, mostly in upstate New York. But it used a Key West crew.

Having worked on official Key West Fantasy Fest videos with local filmmaker Jeremy Hyatt, he chose him as cinematographer on this turn-a-genre-upside-down production. Key West producers Shirrel Rhoades and Albert L. Kelley acted as consultants (as well as being fathers of the pair). And Key West singer Dawn Wilder contributed a song for the film.

“Year of the Donkey” was shot in High Definition. “That was important,” Rhoades says. “Hi-Def gives you a chance at a longer shelf life and also is just a better picture. We shot all on a hard drive (p2 card), and then transferred it straight into editing. The only time any footage will see tape is on the final master.”

“The original script was so graphic that I had a hard time casting it,” he says. “Many actors said thanks but no thanks after reading the script.”

Graphic? You mean blood and gore? we ask.

“No, sex,” he replies. Again, it’s hard to tell whether he’s joking.

One of the stars of the film, he claims, is a sex toy named Mr. Pink.

“Then I tamed it down a bit, as I started to like the story,” he admits. “It became less about shock and more about the story.”

Rhoades cast his indie film with young New York actors, up-and-comers like Jen Emma Hertel, Sheba Wolf, and David Cooper.

“The cast of this film really found its way and took it to another place,” he comments. “I’ve never had a cast click as well as this one did.”

Some other actors were originally cast. “For one reason or another they couldn’t be in the film, and now I can’t image any other actors in these rolls,” he says.

“Trying to come up with a catchy tagline was lots of fun. We came up with phrases like, ‘Putting the Ho Back into Horror’ and ‘A Little Bit of Fetish and One Killer Ass.’ Maybe we’ll have a contest with a neat prize for whoever comes up with the best tagline,” he muses.
Neat prize? “You know, maybe a jar of eyeballs. Or a donkey mask.”

Oscar Votes 2009 (Rhoades)

How Did You Do On Oscar Night?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The 81st Academy of Arts and Sciences Awards – better known as the Oscars – is now a week behind us, with “Slumdog Millionaire” the clear winner with eight golden statuettes.
Each year it’s an occasion of informal betting, handicapping, and did-you-see-it conversations.
So how did you do?

I have to confess, I got tripped up once again by those obscure categories like Best Foreign Film, Best Animated Short, etc. – despite the Tropic Cinema’s wonderful little short-film festivals. Rats!

But I did do pretty well on the major categories. I got Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and the like. (Okay, I admit I didn’t expect Penelope Cruz to snag Best Actress in a Supporting Role, but I can live with it.)

When one of the partiers at the Tropic Cinema’s annual Oscar gala sidled over to me at the hors d’oeuvre table, champagne glass in hand, and asked whom I thought would win, I whispered “Slumdog” with the surety of a race track gambler giving the winning horse.
She was a step ahead of me. “Yes, I agree,” she smiled. “That’s why I wore this dress.” She whirled to display a lovely sari, in keeping with the film’s Indian theme.
All that said, there were better handicapper’s among the Tropic’s chattery audience last Sunday night than me:

Ruth Yakaitis won first prize (a $600 Producer’s membership) by getting 17 Oscar winners correct on her ballot. Well done!

Dick Jones came in for second prize with 16 right answers plus a tiebreaker (winning an Ultimate Adventure for two on the Fury). And Jackie O’Neill easily took third prize with her 16 correct answers (snagging a one-month free membership to Paradise Fitness).
Four people tied with 15 correct votes: Christine Gorham, Judith Daykin, Varpu Lindstrom, and Runi Goyal.

Of these top seven people, five got all four actor awards correct. And all seven guessed Best Picture and Best Director correctly.

I must admit I felt some degree of redemption when I learned that the most commonly missed categories among the Tropic’s voters were Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short, Animated Short, and Sound Editing

But afterward I had to check with one of the above experts, considering Oscar Night’s unique blending of Hollywood and Bollywood. My friend Runi Goyal is not only on the board of the Key West Film Society, and an experienced film producer herself, but she’s also Indian. Did she expect “Slumdog “ to thrash all the competition?

“To be honest,” said Runi with a sly smile, “I expected it to win Best Picture and Director. No surprise to me at all.”

She adds, “I thought ‘Slumdog’ was a very solid film, but not the best movie ever made. In terms of connecting with ‘my people,’ I thought ‘Water’ by Deepa Mehta (who is Canadian-Indian) was brilliant.

“My only wish is that India will someday produce great films,” concludes Runi. “They have the talent, the money and the technical expertise, but they only want to produce Bollywood pieces of crap. Maybe after seeing an Indian film take the world’s biggest prize, they will wake up. Especially because it was a non-Indian production team.”

And that’s the last word on this year’s Oscars.
[from Solares Hill]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Week of February 20 to February 26 (Mann)

What's On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

It's actresses front and center this week at the Tropic. Kate Winslet, who is busily laying claim to the title of the most versatile as well at the most talented actress working today, plays a German tram conductor in THE READER. And Ann Hathaway, who has cut her teeth on popular Hollywood fare, takes on a very serious dramatic role as an addict furloughed from rehab in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED.

Both actresses are nominated for this year's Academy Award. And both films have been awards magnets this season. THE READER has five Oscar nominations, including the coveted Best Film and Best Director categories. RACHEL has three Oscar nominations, and is in the running for the Independent Spirit Award’s Best Film. The movies will be running all week, but Friday and Saturday is your last chance to see them if you want to get a leg up for a “pick the winners” pool.

If you're looking for an Oscar pool to enter, the Tropic will be conducting one and also showing all the Oscar ceremonies live on its big screens on Sunday night, starting at 7:00pm. It's the annual Academy Award Gala with Key West's own VIP red carpet show hosted by Christopher Peterson. Tickets on sale now.

The Tropic will also be showing the Independent Spirit Awards, live in the Sussman Lounge, starting at 5:00pm on Saturday afternoon. That's a free show. No tickets required.

Getting back to Kate Winslet, she's also starring in another film at the theater this week, the continuing run of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. I talked about that one last week. Winslet doesn't have an Oscar nomination for that movie, but at this year's British Oscars (BAFTA) she had a double nomination for Best Actress, for both The Reader and Revolutionary Road! She won it for The Reader, and rightly so in my opinion. It is by far the more powerful of the two movies, and her character in it is much more complex. Though many of you will have read the novel, I don't want to spoil it for those who have not. But it does not give anything away to say that Winslet's character is a middle-aged woman who seduces a young man and then returns to his life years later through fascinating plot twists. The Oscar nomination for THE READER, and for Winslet, are well-deserved.

As for Ann Hathaway, you'll cringe with the rest of the guests at the pre-nuptial dinner as she acts out in inappropriate, but sadly expectable, ways. She and Winslet have been duking it out in the pre-Oscar awards, but the smart money is on Winslet for the big one. The only other real possibility is Melissa Leo from Frozen River, a great little movie that played at the Tropic back in November.

Mentioning Frozen River brings to mind the fact that all five movies carrying Best Actress nominations were shown (or will be shown) at the Tropic. In addition to the three just mentioned, there's also Angelina Jolie in Changeling (shown in December) and Meryl Streep in Doubt, coming next month. Turning to Best Picture, four of the five nominees -- The Reader, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, and Frost/Nixon (coming next month) – are Tropic movies. And so on. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: The Tropic is Key West's theater for great movies, as well as being a non-profit community treasure. If you don't go to the Tropic you miss it all... or at least 80%.

Heading up the Special Events calendar is a quite extraordinary concert: Two Pianos, Two Talents, and Jazz. Dominique and Tristan Lofficial are a father and son, but they are also jazz pianists, with performing credits on stages from the Paris Opera to the Kennedy Center. This week they’ll add the Tropic Cinema. By special arrangement, a pair of grand pianos are being temporarily installed on the stage, mated to serve the improvisational talents of this generational duo. Local musicians have always praised the superb acoustics of the Tropic’s Carper Theater. This promises to be a great chance to show them off. Thanks to some local fans for arranging this treat. One show only on Tuesday at 8:15.

The Tropic's Fifth Anniversary is coming up in April. Isn't it time to take out a membership so you can save money on every ticket, and support a great Key West asset?

More info and online tickets at Comments to
[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

The Reader (Rhoades)

“The Reader” Isn’t Really About Reading

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I remember the first time as a child I encountered an adult, an older relative, who could not read or write. It was puzzling to me, a kid immersed in books, that someone older than me did not have this skill.

That was my introduction to differences between generations, little appreciating the learning opportunities I’d had that my forbearers didn’t.

In “The Reader” – the Oscar-nominated post-Holocaust film now playing at Tropic Cinema – we meet a young German woman named Hanna Schmitz who loves books but to her shame is illiterate. That social embarrassment, combined with her part as a guard at a concentration camp, leads to trial and tragedy.

The early part of the story centers on Hanna’s illicit affair with a 15-year-old boy, a handsome young student who reads to her. Homer. Chekov. Great literature that otherwise eludes her.
The reading is almost as erotic as the sex.

After Hanna leaves the boy, he later learns that she became a guard at a Jewish detainment camp and is accused of causing 300 deaths. As a law student observing her trial, he wrestles with her doing-her-duty defense versus knowing that she could not have written the incriminating report due to her illiteracy.

His law professor explains to his students that we do not live in a moral society but a society governed by laws. The boy has a legal duty to come forward with his knowledge, but he hesitates.
What we have here is a morally complex struggle between following the law and doing what it right. In fact, it’s a moral struggle between generations.

You come to understand that the inability to read is merely a metaphor for a generation’s inability to see what it was doing. And as Hanna masters the art of reading while serving a life sentence in prison, she comes to understand the horror of her actions, sending people to their death to make room for new prisoners. Merely a matter of practicality, right?

Wrong. That is, when seen through the eyes of a new generation of Germans.
As Hanna concludes, “It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn't matter what I feel. The dead are still dead.”

Based on a bestselling book by German law professor Bernhard Schlink – itself an Oprah’s book club selection – the film has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Yet the book itself has been called “cultural pornography” and turning a “blind eye to evil.”
And my old Harper’s Magazine contributor Ron Rosenbaum criticized the film, noting that even if Germans like Hanna were metaphorically “illiterate” regarding the Holocaust, “they could have heard it from Hitler’s mouth in his infamous 1939 radio broadcast to Germany and the world, threatening extermination of the Jews if war started. You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind, not merely illiterate....”

Sorry, Ron, but rather than argue over the fact that everyone knew of the Holocaust but turned a blind eye to it, you might instead consider the explanation found in this passage from the book: “An executioner is not under orders. He’s doing his work, he doesn’t hate the people he executes, he’s not taking revenge on them, he’s not killing them because they’re in his way or threatening or attacking them. They’re a matter of such indifference to him that he can kill them as easily as not.”

In other words, he’s just doing his job.

This moral maze was brought to the screen by director Stephen Daldry under the aegis of the Weinstein brothers. Daldry has only directed three movies counting “The Reader,” but has been nominated for an Oscar on each of them. “Billy Elliot” was called “charming” and “irresistible.” “The Hours” was described as “deeply moving” and “a thing of beauty” – and won a Best Actress Academy Award for Nicole Kidman.

The actress up for kudos in “The Reader” is Kate Winslet in the role of Hanna. You see her struggle to understand her crime just as she struggles to learn to read for herself. And she ages from a lovely woman bathing her lover to an elderly inmate facing a lifetime internment.
The younger Michael is well portrayed by David Kross; his older self by Ralph Fiennes.
If Hanna represents the older (guilty) generation, then Michael gives us the new Germany, trying to understand the sins of its elders.

As Michael says, “I wanted simultaneously to understand Hanna’s crime and to condemn it ... But it was impossible to do both.”
[from Solares Hill]

Friday, February 13, 2009

Week of February 13 to February 19 (Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

I have to admit it. I’m not a television guy, but I can’t resist Mad Men. It’s got the sturm und drang of The Sopranos, plus girls in pointy bras. Hard to top that. Well, before Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was even born, the angst of suburban ennui was brilliantly portrayed in Richard Yates’ classic 1961 novel, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. opening today at the Tropic in an adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) meet at a Manhattan party when they are young and full of a sense of the future. But not many years later they’re out in Connecticut, with a cute house, cute children, a commute for him and housekeeping for her. They’ve slipped off the deck of the Titanic, not into the Atlantic Ocean, but into a swamp of despair. But April has the solution: Paris. How many couples dream of moving to Paris, or Rome, to start life anew, free of the shackles of ordinariness? There is ordinariness in Europe, too, but not if you have no job, no working papers, no friends or family, and can’t speak the language. It’s jumping off a cliff, which is sure to be an adventure, at least until you hit bottom.

When I lived up North and had a regular job, I knew people who talked of this, but no one who did it. Down here in Key West, I’ve met some who’ve made the leap and managed to find a parachute on the way down. So it can be done.

Enough with the metaphors. Go see the movie, which Roger Ebert says is “so good it is devastating.” And watch for the defining line of dialog, uttered by a released mental patient who visits Frank and April: “Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness."

* * *

Here’s a tip. Don’t miss the chance to see the Academy Award Nominated Shorts, held over for another week. There are no movie stars. You’ll never see any full-page ads or television promos. There aren’t even any trailers to view on line. But take my word, these are truly dramatic gems. Someone once observed that life is mostly background; there are few foreground moments. We all have a few events in our own lives that stick in our minds as defining moments. These short films zoom in on their characters and capture such moments, the brief windows in time that they will probably remember forever, and that are memorable for us as well. The moment when a twelve-year-old African immigrant finds out if he has a place in an Irish school. The moment when a Danish tailor discovers the meaning of tolerance. Because these films are so brief, it’s difficult to say much more without a spoiler, but brief synopses are available at There are five animations (plus a few bonus items), shown on Friday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday; and five live action films shown on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.

On the special events calendar, the Key West Tara Mandala Buddhist center brings us the distinguished scholar and practitioner Tsultrim Allione for a lecture on FEEDING YOUR DEMONS: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR RESOLVING INNER CONFLICT. This is a free event on Wednesday at 7:00pm.

And this may be your last chance to see Sean Penn in the Oscar-nominated Best Picture MILK. Fair warning.

More info and schedules at Comments to

Revolutionary Road (Rhoades)

“Revolutionary Road” Leads To Unhappy Ever After

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What if the Titanic had made it to port? What if Jack and Rose had gotten married? Would they have lived happy ever after?

In “Revolutionary Road” – the new drama that opened Friday at the Tropic Cinema – Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are reunited, this time around as a married couple.

Although it’s a different time and different place, their love story hits the shoals. Here we find a married couple trapped in a suburban life that they never wanted. Kate gives us a woman who dreamed of bright lights and Paris, not rug rats and a Stepford wife existence. And Leo shows us a man whose hesitation forces him into a job that he hates and a commuter grind that saps his very soul.

So why would a moviegoer want to play fly-on-the-wall to family fights and bitter accusations (when you could simply stay at home and get that)?

The answer: Kate Winslet.

Never one of my favorite actresses, in “Revolution Road” she defies me to not recognize her talent. Her performance is awesome. Every nuance, every twitch of her face, every angry word communicates a woman who has lost her center, trapped in a life she never wanted, at a loss with her very self.


She may be up for the golden statuette with her role in “The Reader” (her 6th nomination to date), but this performance alone should seal her reputation as one of today’s finest actresses.
In addition to Winslet, you’ll appreciate the sure-handed direction of Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”). And you’ll certainly want to catch Michael Shannon’s Oscar-nominated performance.
Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966) gave us the Battling Burtons, making us squirm as we painfully witnessed the deterioration of a relationship.

Now, with “Revolutionary Road,” we have the same uncomfortable experience while watching the collapse of a marriage, the tragic fate that befalls this storybook couple. Affairs, abortions, a loveless marriage, unfulfilled dreams.

No, it’s not a happy-ever-after story.
[from Solares Hill]

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.

Comments to
[from Key West the newspaper -]

Oscar Nominated Short Films (Rhoades)

Oscar Shorts Give Advance Preview

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Every year – like many of you – I enter into an Oscar Pool, casting my bet on which films, actors and the like will win the golden statuette. And I have to admit I do pretty well. After all, I am a film critic.

Not that I place bets based on what I like or dislike. I understand the fickle and capricious nature of the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences – those folks who chose the Oscar winners – and so I vote based on such factors as whose year is it to win? What movies won last year? Who’s hot and who’s not?

But doing well is a far cry from actually winning the Pool. I always get tripped up by those obscure categories such as Best Soundman on a Short Animated Drama Based on an Original Screenplay by the Producer’s Brother-in-Law … or something like that.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. The ones that usually get me are those short films that I’ve never seen. How can anyone bet accurately on a bunch of short films that I’ve never had the opportunity to view?

Well, if you share my frustrations, I’ll see you at the Tropic Cinema. This week the Tropic is playing a series of Oscar Shorts.

Brought to you by Magnolia Films, the “2009 Nominated Oscar Shorts” includes 88 minutes of animation and 94 minutes of live action.

The shortest film in the collection is a 3-minute French animated film called “Oktapodi,” directed by Julien Bocabeille. The longest is a 30-minute German/Swiss live-action film titled “Auf Der Strecke” (“On the Line”), directed by Reto Caffi.

There are 5 animated films in all. In addition to “Oktapodi,” they include “Lavatory – Lovestory” (Russia), “Pieces of Love, Vol. 1” (Japan), “This Way Up” (UK), and Pixar’s Presto (USA), as well as a bonus selection of highly acclaimed recent animated shorts

Also there are 5 live action entries. In addition to “Auf Der Strecke,” you’ll find “New Boy” (Ireland), “Toyland” (Germany), “The Pig” (Denmark) and “Manon on the Asphalt” (France).
This year I plan to sweep the Oscars. At least in terms of picking the short film winners.
[from Solares Hill]