Friday, July 30, 2010

Week of July 30 to August 5 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Once every year or so, there’s an independent movie that crosses over to major popular success – Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, Juno in 2007, Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, Sideways in 2004. Now it’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, which opens at the Tropic this week. With almost $5 million gross in its first three weeks of limited release, The Kids is playing in the same league as those other breakout hits.

What’s going on? For starters, it’s a comedy, but one where the humor comes from the dialogue and the characters, not from goofballs goofing off. It’s got an A-list cast, led by Oscar nominees Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, and featuring Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland). But best of all it’s got a serious center inside the warm and cozy wrapper.

Benning and Moore are a long-term lesbian couple, with two teen-age kids, both conceived with seed from the same sperm-bank donor (Ruffalo). When the kids decide to track down their unknown father, and bring him into the family, the dynamics explode.

The film was a huge hit at Sundance this January, and it has been blowing the critics away. “So knowing, so rich, so hilarious, so damn healthy” (New York magazine), “thrillingly funny and casually profound” (Wall St. Journal), “outrageously funny… and heartbreaking” (New York Times), to quote just a few. Need I say, it’s a definite “don’t miss?”

If that’s not enough excitement for you, the second of the Stieg Larsson crime trilogy, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, is also arriving this week, with the intense, hauntingly beautiful Noomi Rapace continuing her personification of hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander, and Michael Nyqvist again portraying journalist Mikael Blomkvist. This time it’s Lisbeth who’s in the eye of the storm, as she’s being framed for three murders. There’s a new Swedish director, but he’s kept “the searing intelligence and ruthless bent.” (L.A. Times) If you’ve read the book, you’ll know you have to see the movie. Or if you just want to know what all the hullabaloo is about, here’s a quick way to find out.

And you’ll be ready for the English-language remake of Dragon Tattoo, said to be the quickest foreign-to-American remake ever. Due out next year, it’s rumored to feature Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Daniel Craig (James Bond #6). If so, it’ll be interesting to see how sweet, innocent Ms. Mulligan transforms herself into one of the most noir female characters ever to dominate the screen.

Is all this too serious for you? Would you really rather see goofballs goofing off? Not to worry, the Tropic’s got you covered with DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. Tim (Paul Rudd) has to find an uber schmuck to bring to a monthly dinner organized by his politically incorrect boss. Rest easy, that’s “schmuck” in the Yiddish sense of fool or dolt, not a penis, which is also a common usage. (The real prick here is Tim’s boss.) Barry (Steve Carell), stepping right out of The Office, is Tim’s triumphant find for the dinner, an IRS agent whose hobby is making dioramas with dead mice. With comedic backups like Zach Galifianakis (Hangover), Dinner for Schmucks is a lowbrow delight.

Full info and schedules at or call 877-761-FILM.
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The Kids Are All Right (Rhoades)

“The Kids Are All Right” Is More Than All Right

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

A friend at the Key West Literary Seminar gave me a collection of short stories by Shawn Vandor. Shawn, it turns out, is the product of artificial insemination, and is currently writing a book on the subject of being “parentless.”

However, those who don’t want to wait for his publication can go see a movie called “The Kids Are All Right.” A breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, this indie comedy is currently exploring this same familial theme at the Tropic Cinema.

More than that, its executive producer is Key West resident (and rumored contender for 2010’s Fantasy Fest Queen) Anne O’Shea.

“The Kids Are All Right” tells about a nice lesbian couple (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who want children. So they both get pregnant using the same anonymous sperm donor.

Life is uncomplicated until the two kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) decide they need to meet their biological father. After contacting the sperm bank to learn his identity, the teenagers set off on an odyssey of discovery.

Spoiler alert: Dear ol’ dad is none other than Mark Ruffalo. A family “reunion” that’s the crux of the story.
Director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko says, “People really admired what Stuart [Blumberg] and I got on the page but there was a fear factor regarding how the film was going to make money, as the subject matter is tricky.” The trick was getting a great cast.

Annette Bening has been doing some fine independent films lately, the most recent being “Mother and Child.” With such cinematic credits as “The Grifters,” “Bugsy,” and “American Beauty,” these days she’s stretching her acting muscles.

Julianne Moore has veered from edgy roles (Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts”) to mainstream movies (“The Forgotten”) to intriguing indie films (“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”). And served as a Revlon spokeswoman along the way.

You saw Mia Wasikowska as the grown-up Alice in Tim Burton’s recent retelling of “Alice in Wonderland.” And you may have spotted Josh Hutcherson in “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Mark Ruffalo is a steady performer, appearing in such fare as “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Zodiac,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

Even so, the film took a long time getting off the ground. The project was started in 2004, but got postponed two years later when Cholodenko herself became pregnant by way of an anonymous sperm donor.
[from Solares Hill]

Dinner For Schmucks (Rhoades)

“Dinner for Schmucks” Is Cinematic Fast Food

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Recently I attended a dinner party where the conversation was inane. The guests sat around the table discussing lofty subjects of which they had little knowledge or insight. I found it amusing, listening to this bunch of intellectual schmucks.

You too will find it amusing to attend a “Dinner for Schmucks,” that being the new Steve Carell comedy at the Tropic Cinema. The premise of this silly outing is that a couple of guys hold dinner parties for idiots for the very purpose of making fun of them.

Paul Rudd (“I Love You, Man”) plays an ambitious young exec who recruits these silly guests for his boss’s monthly get-togethers. The idea is to find the biggest buffoon. And our guy scores when he invites Steve Carell (“Despicable Me,” TV’s “The Office”), even wackier than usual as an off-center IRS employee.

Others at the fête include Zach Galifianakis, Jermaine Clement, and Lucy Punch.

Director Jay Roach should write “An Idiot’s Guide to Dinner Parties.” His staging allows the guests’ repartee to ricochet around the banquet table, quips bouncing about like a food fight.

The plot may seem a tad mean-spirited, but it’s played for laughs. It’s actually a remake of a French farce titled “The Dinner Game” (or “Le diner de cons”) by Francis Veber. Same idea, without the Gallic wit.

Steve Carell plays his role like a male version of Sandra Bullock’s annoying character in “All About Steve.” But Carell, with spiky blond hair and spectacles, sells us on this weird persona. Paul Rudd is the straight man in the comedic duo and as such has fewer funny lines.

However, in the end this is more like Chinese takeout than a full-course dinner. And a half hour after you walk out of the theater you’ll be hungry for more laughs than you got.
[from Solares Hill]

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Rhoades)

“Girl Who Played With Fire” Plays With Our Reading Habits

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Okay, I got hooked. Like millions of readers around the world, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the three-part Millennium series. In America, we know these Swedish thrillers by the late Stieg Larsson as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

Great reads. Two fascinating characters, a weary middle-aged magazine publisher and a weird Goth hacker chick. Together (and apart) they take on serial killers, sadists, Russian defectors, and a monolithic giant who feels no pain. Not to mention, factions of the Swedish secret service.

I know people who ordered the books from Europe, before the US publication date, because they just couldn’t wait. And I have friends who’ve stayed up all night because they just couldn’t put the book down.
And no, I couldn’t wait to see the movie versions. The first film was directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the last two by Daniel Alfredson. (Using the same director on the last two seems right to me, for the last two books are actually one long story chopped in half.)

I liked the film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (it’s been back for a second round at the Tropic Cinema here in Key West). The casting of Michael Nyqvist as the journalist and Noomi Rapace as the tattooed girl of the title were perfect, exactly as I’d pictured them in my mind. And the story that unfolded in the wintry Swedish countryside and spilled over to the steaming Australian Outback was true enough to the book.

So as the release date for the second of the three films approached, I began pestering Scot Hoard (the unsung genius who does the bookings for the Tropic) to schedule “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”
He did.

It opened on Friday.

And here’s the good part. I couldn’t wait, so I pestered Scot to get me a screener copy that I could watch in advance. And he did. And I stayed up late at night to watch it, because I just couldn’t wait.

In “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” Mikael Blomkvist (again played by Michael Nyqvist) and Lisbeth Salander (also played by Noomi Rapace) face motorcycle gangs and her evil birth father and that muscle-bound giant … and the police, who have evidence that she killed two of Blomkvist’s colleagues.

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” (the title has a double meaning) is like watching the book in your head as you read it, a faithful adaptation, a tad streamlined to fit it within a movie’s timeframe, but true enough to the book. That said, it helps if you’re read the first two books to get the full understanding of the film.
The third movie will likely be released in the U.S. later this year. And I can’t wait.

For those who don’t like subtitles, an American remake is scheduled to be released in late 2011 … if you can wait. Starring Daniel Craig (“Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace”) and possibly Carey Mulligan (“An Education,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”), it will be a slicker Hollywood production with a bigger budget. I’m not sure why they bother. The first two of the Swedish-made trilogy are spot-on, little in need of a re-do. And the third is sure to live up also.

So how do we get more of the real deal, with author Stieg Larsson dead of a heart attack and no more books in sight (although his live-in girlfriend claims there was a fourth book in his computer, the beginning and ending with no middle written)?

Well, I’ve just discovered that Michael Nygvist and Noomi Rapace have thus far appeared in six episodes of a Swedish television series called “Millennium.” Can it be ….?
[from Solares Hil]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Week of July 16 to July 22 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

There’s a fascinating juxtaposition at the Tropic this week – two movies starring the rotund, rascally, very non-movie-star Jonah Hill, best known for frat boy comedies like Superbad.

One of his current movies, GET HIM TO THE GREEK, is held over from last week. Hill is a shlubby Hollywood agent on a road adventure trying to get an errant British rock star from London to L.A. in time for a concert. The movie is in his usual style, full of debauchery, dirty talk, and sophomore humor; and Hill is in his groove.

But Hill's newest movie, CYRUS, opening this week, breaks the mold. The writer-director team is the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark. They’re from the small budget, indie-film world, where their last two films (The Puffy Chair and Baghead) grossed under $200,000. But the movies were well-received, garnering them a “Someone To Watch” nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards and leaving critics wanting to see more. It also got some backer to fund a decent budget and cast.

The title character Cyrus (played by Hill) is a 21-year-old mama’s boy, still living with his single mom Molly (Marisa Tomei). To say they’re close doesn’t capture it. (There’s even a suggestion that he may only recently have been weaned.) Into this household comes John (John C. Reilly), a lonely divorcé who has fallen for the attractive, perky Molly. A domestic battle is about to take place. That much is obvious.

Give a Swedish director that setup and the darkness and angst would be palpable. But the Duplass boys are from Atlanta, and they don’t take things too seriously. The only thing black is the comedy. Cyrus knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it with clever sneak attacks that leave John in a daze and his sweet mother unaware. The result is “an edgy, engrossing comedy with an art-house sensibility and mainstream appeal” (USA Today), “a dulcetly crazy, certifiably hilarious and eerily mysterious little comedy” (Wall St. Journal).

Both movies are certified summer fun.

As is TOY STORY 3, now at the Tropic for your family enjoyment. Just the thing to introduce your kids to the joy of seeing a movie in a warm and friendly environment.

Held over: I AM LOVE – Tilda Swinton stars in this story of a powerful Milanese family caught in familial and generational conflict. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – Documentary (or maybe “prankumentary”) about art collectors and the art world.

Brought back by popular demand: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – First in a series of films based on the Stieg Larsson best sellers. The second film, The Girl Who Played With Fire will be opening soon, so take this chance to get prepared.

Another reason to make your way to the cool confines of the Tropic this week is a special program organized by Hometown Pac! On Monday from 5:00 to 7:00 they’ll be presenting a forum for you to meet candidates for upcoming elections to the Mosquito Control Board (eight candidates) and the School Board (seven candidates). Everybody’s got something to say or something to find out about these elections, which get so little real coverage in the press. Don’t miss your chance to become an informed citizen. Admission to the forum and a candidate meet-and-greet is free and open to the public. But seating is limited.

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Cyrus (Rhoades)

“Cyrus” Never Grows Up
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What is it with these kids that never grow up? They are becoming a common movie theme.

I’m not talk about the Peter Pan Syndrome, so artfully depicted in the “Seinfeld” TV show. Nor am I talking about those man-child portrayals by Adam Sandler and Will Farrell. Or Steve Martin in “The Jerk.”
I’m referring to those mama’s boys who’ll likely turn out to be Norman Bates if they continue to be smothered by material affection.

In “Grown Ups,” the still-nursing 4-year-old is one in the making. And Will Farrell and John C. Reilly are grown-up versions in “Step Brothers,” a couple of 40-year-olds who have never left home, sickos unnaturally attached to their respective parents.

Now we have “Cyrus.” John C. Reilly again, but this time he plays the inept suitor to Marisa Tomei, a single mother with a too-close relationship with her 21-year-old son.

Jonah Hill (you recently saw him in “Get Him to the Greek”) is that over-protective son, at odds with this intruder who is wooing his mom.

One blogger agreed with me. He wrote, “Hello, this is exactly like ‘Step Brothers.’ Okay, not exactly like, but it’s similar. I’m surprised no one is making that connection, especially with John C. Reilly in it.”

Twenty-eight other bloggers responded sarcastically that he obviously hadn’t seen the film (neither had they) and ranted, “I haven’t seen it but it reminds me of ‘Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.’” Or “I haven’t seen it but it reminds me of ‘Nosferatu.’” Or even “I got flashbacks of ‘The Remains of the Day.’ Weeeird!”
Finally someone sensibly replied, “I did see it and it reminded me that gorgeous women are lonely and attracted to goofy palookas only in the movies.” Amen.

Why would a beauty like Molly (Tomei) fall for a loser like John (Reilly)? And why would an obsessive offspring like Cyrus (Hill) not be under a shrink’s intensive care?

Oh yes, I forgot. This is a comedy.

“Cyrus” was directed by Mark and Jay Duplass. If you’ve followed the ascendance of these brothers from their early no-budget films to their breakout low-budget Sundance hit “Puffy Chair” and the follow-up winner “Baghead,” then you will want to see “Cyrus.”

These freewheeling indie flicks make up what’s become known as the Mumblecore Movement. It’s characterized by an ultra-low budget production (often employing digital video cameras), focus on personal relationships between twentysomethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors.

Film critics have also used the terms “Bedhead Cinema” (after the Duplass’s film) and “Slackavetes” (referring both to director John Cassavetes and Richard Linklater’s dialogue heavy film “Slacker”).

So is “Cyrus” a Mumblecore film?

Not really. Better production values, bigger budget, real stars, even a script.

“Cyrus is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

If you like Judd Apatow comedies, this is close enough in tone to appeal to you. Besides, Jonah Hill is an Apatow regular, having appeared in “Superbad,” “Knocked Up,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” and the aforementioned “Greek” trip. And as weeeird as “Cyrus” is, it will grow on you.
[from Solares Hill]

I Am Love (Rhoades)

“I Am Love” Offers Sumptuous Drama

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Composer John Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the award based on his “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a choral piece commemorating victims of 9/11. Among his better-known works are the operas “Nixon in China” and “Dr. Atomic,” works chronicling such mundane subjects as a president’s visit to Asia and a scientist’s contribution to the Manhattan Project.

Adams is an elusive musician, never allowing his compositions to be used in movies.
Until now.

The Italian film “I Am Love” (or “Io sono l’amore”) features John Adams’ music. “We knew that what we really wanted was a score by John Adams, but we knew that was extremely unlikely because he had never allowed his music to be used in a film before,” says one of the film’s producers.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, this sweeping drama of forbidden love is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Academy Award-winner Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”) stars as the Russian-born wife of an Italian textile manufacturer. The patriarch of the wealthy Recchi family has passed the business to her husband (Pippo Delbono) and son (Flavio Parenti). And at the dinner party where the announcement is made she meets her son’s friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a handsome young chef.

This sets in motion events that will impact the Recchi dynasty with tragic consequence.
Emma (Swinton) describes her opulent home as “Something part palace, part prison, part museum.” The camera drifts through the corridors, lingers over the chandeliers and tapestries, ultimately probing the passions hidden just beneath the surface of the regal Emma.

This is a sensual film – visually, audibly, and thematically. And Tilda Swinton’s nuanced performance convinces you that her Oscar was no fluke. But food hasn’t appeared so erotic in a movie since “Tom Jones.”
John Adams’s operatic score generates a sense of underlying tension. “I like music that is a character in a movie,” says Luca Guadagnino. “I don’t like to be Mickey Moused by the music in the movie, or to be told by the music what to feel.”
[from Solares Hill]

Toy Story 3 (Rhoades)

“Toy Story 3” – A Return to Playtime

 Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

We all must grow up – even Andy, the “real” kid in Pixar Animation’s “Toy Story.” In this movie’s third outing Andy is off to college, leaving his toys behind. In fact, these childish odds and ends – the slinky dog, Mr. Potato Head, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody the cowboy – have been donated to a daycare center.

But those of us in the audience who don’t want to admit we’re grown up know that putting your toys away is not the end of the story. “Toy Story 3” is currently having a play date at the Tropic Cinema.

What you’ll discover is that Andy was merely packing his favorite toys away to the attic, but his mother dumps them in the trash. Mothers are like that. Taking their own destiny into their little plastic hands, the toys decide to go to a daycare facility where they will be played with forever.

A good plan, right? Wrong.

Woody tries to head off this misguided idea, but winds up a daycare captive. Now if he could escape from this toy prison using that kite…

You’ll meet lots of new toys in this edition in the “Toy Story” trilogy. At Sunnyside Day Care: Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, Big Baby, and a smooth-talking Ken doll who falls for (you guessed it) Molly’s Barbie doll. And at the home of a little girl named Bonnie: Chuckles the Clown, Mr. Pricklepants, Trixie, Buttercup, Dolly, and the Peas-in-a-Pod.

Familiar voices are back for this sequel. Tom Hanks as Woody. Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear. Joan Cusack as Jessie. Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head. John Ratzenberger as Hamm. Wallace Shawn as Rex the dinosaur. Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s mom. And, of course, John Morris as our boy Andy.

You’ll hear other familiar voices too. Ned Beatty as Lotso. Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants. Jeff Garlin as Buttercup. Bonnie Hunt as Dolly. Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch. And Michael Keaton as the love-smitten Ken.

Will the toys be rescued by Andy before he leaves for college? Will Buzz be stuck forever on demo mode? Will Woody and Stretch defeat the monkey toy that controls the AV room? Will Sunnydale ever become a happy place for toys? Will Woody and Buzz find a new home?

You’ll enjoy the adventure.

However, I liked the original script that was developed for “Toy Story 3” by Disney back when they were talking splitzville with Pixar. Buzz Lightyear got shipped off to Taiwan to fix a defect, and when the other toys discover that the company just replaces broken Buzz toys with new ones, they head to Taiwan to rescue him.

Alas, this script got canned when Pixar and Disney eventually worked things out, making Steve Jobs the largest stockholder of The Walt Disney Company. Maybe if there’s ever a “Toy Story 4” the plot will involve Woody and Buzz playing games on their new iPads. That would be the ultimate product placement, don’t you think?
[from Solares Hill]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week of July 9 to July 15 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

A bunch of real treats are in store for you this week.

The remarkable Tilda Swinton is the star of I AM LOVE. I say remarkable, not only because of her acting prowess (Michael Clayton, The Deep End, Orlando) but also because of her remarkable accomplishment for this foreign language film. Playing a Russian émigré in Milan, she had to learn to speak Italian with a Russian accent. In other words, a true actor to the core, she can do anything.

And I AM LOVE gives her a chance to prove it. Ms. Swinton is Emma Recchi, the wife of Tancredi, scion of a wealthy and aristocratic Milanese textile empire. As the film opens, at a birthday party she organizes for her father-in-law, the family patriarch makes an announcement. He is retiring and turning over control of the business to his son Tancredi and his grandson Edo (son of Emma and Tancredi).

A time of happiness, right? Wrong. We wonder whether Tancredi and Edo are up to the job, or how they will manage with each other. But more central to the story, we learn that there’s more to Emma than meets the eye, including sexual longings that are destined for fulfillment, and problems with her imperious mother-in-law and her sexually awakening daughter. “An amazing film. It is deep, rich, human,” says Roger Ebert. “Throughout the film, desire and power stream in all directions” adds The New Yorker.

True to its Italian setting, I AM LOVE is visually stylish and opulent, and operatic its story. Wow.

VINCERE, is also set in Italy, but during the early part of the twentieth century as Benito Mussolini rose to power. It’s a biopic, but not focused on the Italian dictator and sometime pal of Hitler himself, but rather on his early lover (maybe wife) Ida Dalser, and the child of their relationship, young Benito. Talk about desire and power… Mussolini wanted to shed himself of this part of his history, and resorted to all the means at his disposal. Yet in the face of this overwhelming power, Ida maintained her story and her dignity.

Damn. It’s another opera. “Vincere… comes as close to grand opera as can be achieved without anyone actually bursting into song, feels like a big movie -- handsomely mounted, full of dark shadows counterpointed with stray shafts of light, with dramatic close-ups of faces driven by passion and madness and heavy silences brutally interrupted by clashing tympani,” observes Ella Taylor for NPR.

Zooming from Italy to the underground art world of Los Angeles brings us to EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, a documentary (or maybe “prankumentary,” suggests Jennette Catsoulis in the New York Times) about the art of a character named Thierry Guetta. He has spent years making videos of graffiti artists at work, sharing the risks of their often daring efforts. But when he tries to film Banksy, a famous and reclusive British street artist, the subject turns the camera and becomes the director. The result is the wild, funny, and possibly true, story, of Guetta’s rise to fame as the artist Mr. Brainwash.

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

Tropic Art Gallery (Rhoades)

Art at the Tropic

Now that the Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street has four screens, I have to double-check my ticket stub more carefully to locate the correct theater. But if you make a left turn at the Carper Theater you wind up in an alcove that gets much less traffic than it should – the art gallery.

Here in this hallway-like space you can always find an exhibit. Recently it was photographic works by Richard Watherwax.

Currently it’s the mixed media of Sharon Wells, a delightful show called “Key West Architecture: Illuminations.” It includes paintings of conch houses, collages, photographs, and various other creative techniques that convey the beauty of those building which surround us, the structures we too often take for granted. A great show, all but hidden away in this alcove at the Tropic.

Make a special effort to look for it on your next outing to the movies.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Rhoades)

“Exit” Departs from Documentary Concept
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Art Behind Bars recently held a fundraiser where local painter Rick Worth gave the shirt off his back. And his baggy shorts too. Both were auctioned off for the benefit of the struggling non-profit that provides an arts program for jailhouse inmates. Luckily, Rick’s mom must have given him that classic advise about wearing clean underwear just in case … for he had no idea that bidding for his still-wet paintings would escalate to all or nothing.

My wife bought Rick’s signed shorts. Ruth Reiter got his paint-smeared shirt.
While these art programs assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners, some art can actually land you in jail. For example, graffiti art. You can get arrested for defacing other people’s property.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” – the documentary that’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema – is about an elusive street artist named Banksy.

Correction. This film started out to be a documentary about Banksy but somewhere along the way the camera was turned and this became instead a profile of compulsive cinematographer Thierry Guetta directed by Banksy.

“The film is the story of what happened when this guy tried to make a documentary about me, but he was actually a lot more interesting than I am,” Banksy explains.
Turns out, Guetta is the cousin of another famous graffiti artist known as Space Invader and developed an interest in this sometimes illegal art form through him. Yet we cannot escape the beauty that’s sometimes displayed in street art.
So in this turnabout tale, Guetta becomes a graffiti artist known as Mr. Brainwash (MBW) and Banksy is the budding filmmaker.

Banksy’s real name is not known. The British-born artist’s works have appeared on walls around the world. Notoriously camera shy, he deports himself like a criminal in “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” his face not shown, his voice distorted.

With a style based on stenciling, Banksy says he got the idea while hiding from the police under a dump truck and noticed the stenciled serial number on the chassis. His stencil of a green Mona Lisa recently sold at auction for more than $85,000. Crime obviously pays.

Some movie buffs claim this documentary was staged, suggesting it constitutes a new subgenre, a “prankumentary.” If so, it’s a very entertaining joke.
[from Solares Hill]

Vincere (Rhoades)

“Vincere” Charts Il Duce’s Love Life
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My wife’s grandmother came over from Italy. She barely spoke English. She wisely left before Mussolini took over the Mediterranean boot country, allying it with Hitler.

Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945) is considered one of the founders of Fascism. He became the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925. He led Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis. In April 1945,

Mussolini was captured and executed by Italian partisans.

As you’ll discover, he had a largely unknown history before rising to power as the leader of the Italian Socialist Republic. Turns out, he was married to a woman named Ida Dalsar and had a child by her, a fact he later tried to conceal.
“Vincere” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – recounts these beginnings of Mussolini’s political career and his turbulent relationship with Ida.

Written and directed by Marco Bellocchio, the film focuses on Ida Dalsar She was a beautician who met the young union activist on a train and began a passionate affair with him. They married and had a son named Benito Albino.

As Mussolini’s political aspirations grew, she sold all her possessions to finance his newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia. This venture helped plant the seeds of Fascism.
Ida’s generosity was rewarded with scorn. Mussolini mistreated her, tried to hide their marriage, and locked her and his son away in an insane asylum. That allowed Il Duce to wed his new lover, Rachele Guidi.

As portrayed by Giovanno Mezzogiorno, Ida is not mad – merely madly in love. Filippo Timi plays Mussolini as a cad. And Michela Cescon gives us a woman who callously usurps Ida’s rightful place in history.

Marco Bellocchio based his screenplay on two books, “Mussolini’s Marriage” and “Mussolini’s Secret Child.”

The cinematography by Daniele Cipri is notable, black-and-white newsreels footage intermixed with chiaroscuro scenes and bright lights and muted colors. The style is operatic, replete with violent thunderstorms and energetic speeches.

The take-away? As Benito Mussolini seduces and badly uses Ida, so he does the Italian people.

I checked my wife’s Italian dictionary. “Vincere” means to win, to gain, or to conquer. In this true-life story, no one wins.
[from Solares Hill]