Thursday, April 8, 2010

Week of April 9 through April 15 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Director Atom Egoyan's portfolio of movies is as varied as his background. Born in Egypt to Armenian parents and raised in Canada, his films range from the Academy Award nominated The Sweet Hereafter (children killed in tragic bus accident) to the Adult Video Award winner Exotica (set in a "gentleman's club") to the Political Film Society Human Rights Award winner Ararat (about the Turkish-Armenian genocide). He's been nominated for the top award at Cannes four times.

Egoyan customarily writes his own screenplays, but for his new film CHLOE, he has turned to a young writer Erin Cressida Wilson, best know for the quirky sex in her screenplays (Secretary, Fur). I remember reading in the trades that Disney had commissioned her to write a screenplay based on a Judy Blume book. What were they thinking!

But it's clear that Egoyan knew what he was getting into with Chloe. It's right up Ms. Wilson's alley, a dark place that you wouldn't want to wander into alone at night, and it makes good use of his Exotica-honed skills. In other words, this is one sexy movie. Julianne Moore suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of cheating on her. But rather than confront him, or hire a private detective, she finds the beautiful young prostitute Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to seduce him and see how he reacts.

Egoyan has commented that he booked Ms. Seyfried for the role before she appeared as a cute young thing in Mamma Mia, and that he's not sure he would have appraised her the same way had he seen that first. But then again, he also hadn't seen her in Jennifer's Body. Anyhow you'll see plenty of her, and of Ms. Moore, too, in this very R-rated show.

I'm not going to tell you how it plays out, but I can tip you that most reviewers throw around Fatal Attraction references.

Don't think THE ART OF THE STEAL is a heist thriller. It's a documentary about an art "theft" on an almost unimaginably high level. Documentarians seem to love art as a subject, maybe because they're artists themselves, or maybe because the subject is so beautiful. We've recently seen Herb and Dorothy, which related the saga of an ordinary couple who became two of the most important collectors in the world, and Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? about the manner in which an elite, of curators and experts, exercises draconian control over the validation of provenance.

Now we have another saga of about the evils of the art elite. This time it's the manner in which they managed to get the fabled Barnes collection moved from its relatively isolated suburban location to a new venue in downtown Philadelphia. It's a story of the conflict between ars gratia artis and art as a financially important commodity, and how political power and money trump the wishes of an art connoisseur and revered collector.

Also opening this week at the Tropic is Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND. The little girl and her adventures have been done on film many times. There was a Paramount production in 1933 starring Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper as the White Knight, and W.C. Fields as Humpty-Dumpty (perfect!); and a sappy Disney animation in 1951 billing Alice as a "heroine of fiction" following in the footsteps of Snow White and Cinderella.

Well, that's not the take of Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd). It's from Disney again, but this time in a combination of live action and CGI. (There's also 3D up on the mainland, but not down on our little island, yet.) This is a serious big bucks feature which has already grossed 3/4 of a billion dollars. See it now. You will eventually, and you might as well catch it on a big screen.

Comments, please, to
[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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