Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week of February 26 thru March 4

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The Oscar hit parade continues with more new award-nominated films joining a pack of holdovers.

THE LAST STATION takes us back to Russia in 1910. Leo Tolstoy, the Olympian author of War and Peace, and Anna Karenina, is 82 and in failing health. He has become a radical anti-church Christian, an anarchist pacifist, and a vegetarian ascetic -- an acknowledged inspiration to the then emerging Mohandas K. Gandhi. In an extreme action on his beliefs, Tolstoy wants to leave his vast estates and priceless copyrights to "the Russian people," rather than his family. This does not sit well with his wife of forty-two years, who has borne him thirteen children and served as his long-suffering amanuensis. (She is said to have recopied War and Peace six times.) A battle of wills rages.

The movie follows a trend this year of pairing Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress nominations. I've already talked about Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart, and George Clooney and Vera Farmiga or Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air. Now we have Helen Mirren as Sofya Tolstoy (Best Actress) and Christopher Plummer as Count Leo (Best Supporting Actor). David Denby in The New Yorker gushes that the movie is "like a great night at the theatre—the two performing demons go at each other full tilt and produce scenes of Shakespearean affection, chagrin, and rage." This independent German/Russian production (but entirely in English) is up for five Independent Spirit Awards, adding Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay to the acting categories.

On a smaller scale, but profound in their own ways, are the OSCAR-NOMINATED SHORT FILMS. There are ten of them, five live-action and five animated, and they're all showing this week.

Animations include a ghastly grandmother terrifying her grandaughter with a reading of Sleeping Beauty (Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty), a confrontation with the Grim Reaper (The Lady and the Reaper), and a new Wallace and Gromit story to charm all local fans of Cole's Peace (A Matter of Loaf and Death). Live-action shorts include a stories of two men moving into an apartment with a frightening history (The New Tenants), a young man living with his parents while developing his skills as a magician (Instead of Abracadabra), and an Indian boy seeking to break out of poverty (Kavi).

Each is a gem in its own way. The films run from six to thirty minutes, making a feature-length set of each group. The animation group and the live-action group will be shown alternately each day, with a separate ticket needed for each.

Just so you know, THE BLIND SIDE, CRAZY HEART, and BROKEN EMBRACES are held over.

The Special Events calendar is headed by a repeat performance by the famed father-son jazz piano duo of Dominique and Tristan Lofficial, TWO PIANOS, TWO TALENTS, AND JAZZ. As last year, two grand pianos will be brought on to the stage of the Carper Theater for a very special concert by these two internationally recognized performers. The concert is on Thursday at 8:00pm.

Monday Night Classic is JAMAICA INN (1939) starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, based on a Daphne DuMaurier novel. Despite the title, the setting is the British coast of Cornwall, and the plot is full of smuggling, shipwrecks and pirates. Ooo, ooo, ooo!

Tuesday night brings a reprise of the La Scala performance of CARMEN, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Key West's resident opera expert, Vincent Zito, will introduce the performance.

Full schedules and info at
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