Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week of August 27 to Sept. 2 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Back in 1938, a 74-year-old bachelor named Felix “Bush” Breazeale, from backwoods Roane County, Tennessee, threw himself a “funeral” party, complete with a commemorative sermon and festive music. The idea of a funeral for an undead character, who was once himself charged with murder, was so delightful the curious came from miles around, packing the highways and creating the biggest crowd in county history.

That’s all true. As the man says, “you can look it up.” The full text of the sermon is even on the Internet ( And from that story, first-time director Aaron Schneider has fashioned GET LOW, a delightful tale that makes us wonder whether we should all emulate Mr. Breazeale.

It often strikes me when I read obituaries in the paper (which I do avidly), that I wish I had known more about the person before it was too late for me to talk about it with him or her. It’s particularly a problem here in Key West, where so many come from elsewhere and are making a new life, some because of retirement, and some because they felt the need to go further along the road… until it ran out. I’ve never much liked the question “What do you do?” but Key West is the only place where I’ve been asked on first meeting someone, “What did you do?” That’s even more impertinent, and I’d never ask it myself. But still, I have to admit, I’d often like to know.

The incomparable Robert Duvall is Bush Breazeale (called Felix Bush in the movie) and the story is fleshed out with an old girlfriend played by Sissy Spacek. There’s a lot of mystery to old Bush, which gives the story its arc, and Duvall “is probably looking at another Oscar nomination.” (Wall St. Journal) You’ll enjoy it.
The setting of LA MISSION, the Latino-dominated Mission District of San Francisco, is quite a contrast, but the movie presents another story of a societal outlier. Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt from Traffic and Law and Order) is a Chicano ex-con who achieves redemption and local fame as a builder of lowriders, only to lose it in a rage of homophobia when he learns that his only son is gay.

It was written and directed by Bratt’s brother, Peter. They both grew up in The Mission and their love for it comes through -- the life on the streets, the lowrider culture. It’s all beautifully photographed and the story is a moving one involving not only the well-developed characters of the father and son, but also the sharply-written role of an independent-minded woman who helps Che find his way (Erika Alexander). The film grabbed the Best Feature, Best Actor (Benjamin Bratt as Rivera) and Best Supporting Actor (Jeremy Ray Valdez as his son) prizes at last week’s Imagen Awards celebrating Latino culture. Don’t believe any contrary reviews.
My favorite film of the year, WINTER’S BONE continues its run for another week, as do INCEPTION, DINNER WITH SCHMUCKS, and COCO AND IGOR.

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

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