Friday, January 28, 2011

Week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

It’s that time of year.. when cineholics are busy comparing Golden Globes wins to Academy Award nominations and handicapping for the big show on February 27. The Tropic is right in the midst of it, with four Best Picture nominees lighting up its screens right now. This week TRUE GRIT joins the three held-over hits – THE KING’S SPEECH, THE FIGHTER and BLACK SWAN to make it an almost full house.

True Grit, as you surely know, is a remake of the John Wayne vehicle from 1969 that won Duke his only Oscar, this time done by the multi-talented Coen Brothers, who are on quite a roll. After firmly establishing their credentials as outrageously clever indie filmmakers (Fargo, O Brother, The Big Lebowski), they went dead serious in 2007 with No Country for Old Men, and picked up the top Academy Award. With last year’s A Solitary Man, they returned to their offbeat roots, got another Best Picture nomination, and should have won it IMHO. Now they’re back in the charmed circle with a classic genre Western. There was a time when we could count on an annual Woody Allen to tickle our fancy, but the old master has faded, bringing Joel and Ethan Coen to the fore as our most reliable source of yearly pleasure.

The Oscar list is a good one, with recognition for serious acting and serious drama, and for the power of small films to have a large impact. I’ve already told you that my pick for Best Picture is the one with the smallest budget and fewest stars (none) of the ten nominees, WINTER’S BONE. It’s not going to get the prize, of course, but I give the Academy credit for including it on the list.

I don’t think a remake like True Grit is going to take the prize either. The real contenders are The King’s Speech -- which gets legs from Hollywood’s anglophilia; The Fighter, because there’s always a soft spot for punchers – Rocky and Million Dollar Baby won the Oscar and Raging Bull almost did; The Kids Are All Right – never count out the L factor; and The Social Network – because… beats me. I’d put my money on The Social Network.

What’s really going on around town this weekend is the  Key West Food and Wine Festival. The Tropic is joining in with THE KINGS OF PASTRY, a documentary from D.A. Pennebacker (Don’t Look Back) about a quadrennial French competition to select the best pastry chef. Because it’s France, President Sarkozy is there and the competitors make our Top Chef entrants look like amateurs. “How exciting can a cooking movie be? As it turns out, really exciting.” (Kansas City Star) “As satisfying as, er, pain au chocolat.” (Washington Post)

But the real high point of the week is on Sunday night when the Tropic and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts present the winner of a student competition to create “film leaders” – brief clips to run at the start of the theater’s feature movies. Middle and high school students were presented with the challenge of creating one-minute films telling people to turn off their cell phones, pick up their trash and otherwise be good theater citizens. You’ll be seeing these micro-movies before shows at the Tropic, but the Sunday night event will be devoted to them exclusively. $10 tickets cover the reception at 6:30 and the screening at 7:00pm, all for the benefit of this student program.

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

True Grit (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
True Grit
Rooster Cogburn rides again to save us all from recent economic anxiety. So seems the escapist intent of this forthright moral tale of revenge from the Coen Brothers, a remake of the 1969 classic "True Grit" which starred the inimitable John Wayne. 
The Coen Brothers shoot their version of the story close to the bone. It is linear and authentic with much of the original impact of the 1969 original. 
As in the Henry Hathaway version, this story is about a wronged teenager Mattie Ross whose father was shot without remorse. Mattie is out for justice. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld shines as Mattie. With her tight braids, austere black dress and last but not least, the wedge of her pale face, she attacks the screen like a hammer. Mattie is calculated and aware beyond her years. A moral compass of consequence ticks through her body even racing her speech in a rapid staccato.
By contrast, Rooster Cogburn is lazy and deadpan. He whiskey-voices his own unique language--a bit of a cartoon. There is just a bit of Yosemite Sam in Jeff Bridges' role but that is part of the fun. This is the Coen Brothers touch that we have come to expect and enjoy. A Wile E. Coyote mixture of goofs and Gothicism that mixes so well in the eyes.
As in "Crazy Heart" Bridges plays a character that is bamboozled by the alchoholic imps in his past but he dumps the bottle before he disappoints and still shoots straight. 
As he stumbles and dances and mumbles his colorful tumbleweed philosophy, Cogburn is still better company than the blonde bland ranger played by Matt Damon. Jeff Bridges is a Disney Desperado soaked in gallows humor by the gallon. There is no contest.
Better still, purist fans of the original classic will cheer when Rooster charges Pepper's men on his horse in the iconic showdown that once gave "Easy Rider" (1969) a run for its money. And like its predecessor, this film competes with the latest Anti-justice film "The Social Network".
Oh to return to that world again when there were no economic recessions, where the only hiss came from a rattlesnake and the trees were jagged against a purple sky.
Through the Coen Brothers each one of us can drink as a tonic this unique cinematic Sasparilla and come back just as thirsty.
Write to Ian at

Oscars vs. Golden Globes (Rhoades)

The Oscars versus
The Golden Globes

Yes, Oscar nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced this past week, largely mirroring the Golden Globes (with a few exceptions).
Acknowledging that Oscar wins are rife with political and popularity overtones, I still prefer them to the Golden Globes. For one thing, the Motion Picture Academy has a much larger voting pool, with certain voters relegated to specific categories. More than 6,000 members in all. Several here in Key West.
The Golden Globes are merely the opinion of 93 members of the foreign press. Not to sound xenophobic, but I prefer the broader American view of Hollywood.
I expect the results will be similar, with “Social Network” taking Best Picture, David Fincher winning as Best Director, Colin Firth walking away with Best Actor, and Christian Bale again snagging Best Supporting Actor. The female winners are going to be a bit more up in the air, a toss-up between Annette Bening and Natalie Portman, as well as a coin flip between Melissa Leo and Jacki Weaver (in my estimation).
Unfortunately, the timing of the Golden Globes has stolen much of Oscar’s thunder this year. But the redo allows the Academy to correct a few oversights, acknowledging Jeff Bridges and Javier Bardem this time around. And with the Academy’s 10 nominees for Best Picture, several other worthy films will get a tip of the hat … even if the end results are the same.
Nonetheless, we will want to compare this year’s non-comedian hosting of Anne Hathaway and James Franco to the hurts-so-much-it’s-funny style of Ricky Gervais.
The Oscars is about pomp and circumstance, while the Golden Globes is more an informal party. And whether you’re watching at home, at a private party like Jean Carper’s, or popping champagne corks at the Tropic Cinema, February 27 will be a night to celebrate the magic that is the movies. 

The Kings of Pastry (Rhoades)

“The Kings of Pastry” Whips Up a Delish Doc
 Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Yummy. I’m thinking of the Key West restaurant known as Better Than Sex. The delectable menu which claims this description consists of desserts. Maybe that’s why I recently posted a new mantra on my Facebook page: Save the earth – it’s the only planet with chocolate!
The documentary titled “The Kings of Pastry” shares a similar sentiment. Playing this week at the Tropic Cinema, it chronicles a trio of pastry chefs competing for the coveted prize of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France).
The competition takes place in Paris every four years. This three-day event features everything from simple chocolate confections to enormous pastry sculptures.
The film focuses on Jacquy Pfeiffer, founder of The French Pastry School in Chicago, as he competes against 15 of France’s leading pastry chefs.
The winner gets to wear a red-white-and-blue collar, signifying the excellence of his or her desserts. It’s presented by Nicolas Sarkiozy, president of the presiding organization.
Filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker (known as Penny to his friends) and his wife Chris Hegedus are the hungry eyes behind this documentary. Pennebaker’s been making films since 1953’s “Daybreak Express,” a five-minute short about the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway station in New York City, set to Duke Ellington music.
More than 40 documentaries have followed. Many have dealt with the music scene, perhaps the best known being “Monterey Pop.” Others include “Dont Look Back” (Bob Dylan), “Sweet Toronto” (the Plastic Ono Band), “Keep on Rockin” (Little Richard), “Jimi Plays Monterey” (Jimi Hendrix), and “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (David Bowie’s “farewell” concert) to name a few.
And he collaborated on a number of films with author Norman Mailer. (Mailer’s son Michael is now a film producer. I’ve visited with him in his Tribeca offices, a few blocks from Robert De Niro’s film headquarters.)
While he’s also shown a penchant for political documentaries (“The War Room,” “Campaign Manager,” “Al Franken: God Spoke,” etc.), this seems to be Penny’s first doc with a culinary theme. What next? Hors d’oeuvres? Soups? Condiments?
“My nightmare is I’m competing and something always goes wrong,” says one of the chefs in “The Kings of Pastry.” And sure enough, you witness intricate pastry designs collapsing, multi-tiered cakes toppling, and feel the sugar-rush pressure of this haut-cuisine competition.
I won’t give away the outcome, but you’ll certainly be perusing the dessert menu next time you eat out. Or you’ll be making reservations at Better Than Sex.
[from Solares Hill]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Student Filmmakers (Rhoades)

Student Filmmakers Debut At the Tropic in New Competition
 By Shirrel Rhoades

In Hollywood every waiter is a wannabe director. And in the Florida Keys you might think that’s the goal of every high school student.
As it turns out, some of the Keys’ middle and high school students are now film directors – thanks to the Tropic’s “Lead Project,” a competition co-sponsored by the Tropic Cinema and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts.
Regular moviegoers will recognize a “lead” as those snippets of film that appear before the feature film starts, usually admonishing you to turn off your cell phone and toss your trash in the handy receptacles after the movie.
Some 50 Monroe County students will see their film productions appear on the four Tropic screens this Sunday, January 30.
On that date the Tropic and the Council of the Arts will hold a reception honoring the students at 6:30 p.m., with the 20 short entries premiering at 7 p.m.
The top 8 of these student films – less than a minute each – will then be shown before every one of the hundred-plus feature films on Tropic Cinema screens this year.
“We wanted something different,” said Matthew Helmerich, executive director of the nonprofit cinema. “The Tropic is unique and we wanted introductory leaders unique to the cinema.”

The Arts Council took the challenge, taking the Tropic leader project to Monroe County middle and high school filmmakers. 20 teams and individual student filmmakers responded to an Arts Council grant application offering cash prizes and awards at the January 30 event.
“The Tropic leader project was a perfect way for us to involve Keys students in the arts and to demonstrate how the arts influence us every day,” said Florida Keys Council of the Arts executive director Elizabeth Young. “Students work on every element of filmmaking from casting to shooting to post-production editing.”
The 20 micro-films were evaluated by about a dozen community arts and education leaders for creativity and production values at a screening earlier this month. I was fortunate enough to happen by the Tropic on the day of the judging and got invited to sit in. The student productions displayed knock-your-socks-off creativity. Some were mindful of drive-in movie intermissions, others paid homage to mainstream movie trailers, and still others offered Darth Vader, actors interacting with the imagined audience, and animation.
Local filmmaker and Arts Council Advisory Board member Michael Marrero oversaw the project. “This was not about screening a student film once, giving a round of applause and putting it away. Like other independent films, our leaders will be on Tropic screens hundreds of times and seen by thousands of moviegoers this year,” said Marrero. “This is the real deal.”
Moviegoers should encourage this burst of creativity – not only by the students, but also by the sponsors – by attending the premiere. Admission is $10 and seats are limited. Tickets are available at the Tropic box office at 416 Eaton Street and at All proceeds for the event benefit the Tropic Film Leader Project.
[from Solares Hill]

True Grit (Rhoades)

“True Grit” Gets Second Test of Its Mettle
 Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

     Hey, you can’t top John Wayne. Or can you?
    Wayne received a long-overdue Academy Award for his role as over-the-hill lawman Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s “True Grit,” the western based on a novel by Charles Portis. In it, a vengeful 14-year-old girl hires the grizzled old U.S. Marshal to track down Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father. Who will ever forget that scene of Rooster charging the bad guys on horseback, both six-shooters blazing, the epitome of fearless determination?
Now we have a remake.
Readers of my columns know I’m not a fan of remakes. If the movie was good in the first place, leave it alone. If it was a dog, let it be.
But what do you say when filmmakers of the caliber of Joel and Ethan Coen decide to redo a beloved classic? Well, you’ve gotta sit up and take notice. You have to figure they’ve got something up their sleeve. After all, they’ve been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning two for “No Country for Old Men.”
In this case, they do: Jeff Bridges.
Despite Jeff’s being “youngified” in his recent sci-fi film “Tron: Legacy,” in real life he’s getting a bit long of tooth. Aging like a fine whisky. Earned him his own Academy Award for his role as a down-on-his-luck country singer/songwriter in “Crazy Heart.”
And when you see him up there on the screen in this faithful remake of “True Grit,” the shaggy-haired one-eyed visage looks the part of a tough old turkey like U.S. Marshal Rueben J. “Rooster” Cogburn from Portis’ novel.
Portis’ book first appeared as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post, the magazine for which I’ve served as fiction editor the past two years. Editor Pat Perry described it as “a great timely piece.”
Ethan Coen says the film is a more faithful adaptation of the novel than the 1969 version. “It’s partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. Another way in which it’s a little bit different from the movie is that it’s a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects. Which is part of what’s interesting about it.”
The old lawman is asked: “Mr. Cogburn, in your four years as a U.S. Marshal how many men have you shot?”
Rooster responds, “Shot or killed?”
“True Grit” is one of the rare Coen brothers films to receive a PG-13 rating despite its intense violence. Their 15th feature, this redo is the Coen’s first western (excluding the modern-day “No Country for Old Men”).
This week “True Grit” rides over to the Tropic Cinema for those of you  who haven’t caught it yet, or those of you who want to see it before the Academy Awards.
Movie newcomer Hailee Steinfeld co-stars as Mattie Ross (originally played by a stoic Kim Darby), the young protagonist through whom we watch the story unfold. The casting call described her as “tough as nails” with “unusually steely nerves and a straightforward manner.”
Also we have Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBouef (the role originally played by a smiley Glenn Campbell) and Josh Brolin as the villain Chaney (originally played by a scowling Jeff Corey). Barry Pepper appears as Lucky Ned Pepper (originally played by squinty-eyed Robert Duvall).
Jeff Bridges has worked with the Coen brothers before, starring as the Dude in their classic comedy “The Big Lebowski.” He says, “The Coens mentioned the idea of doing a western to me years ago, and I thought that sounded interesting, and then when I got the script and it was ‘True Grit’ I was surprised. Then I read the book and it made perfect sense. It’s very Coen-esque.”
Bridges found the character of Rooster Cogburn fascinating. “Rooster has all these wonderful long monologues – you think he’d be the strong silent type, but instead he’s this blustering boor in a way. He wants to tell his life story and you can’t shut this guy up. Everybody in the film is a talker, and it’s fascinating stuff, really, these lives and voices that feel like part of another time.”
“I read the book to my kid, out loud, a few years ago,” says Ethan Coen. “And then we started talking about what we liked about the book and making a movie out of that.”
Brother Joel adds, “There was a reason I read it to my kid. I thought he would be interested in it because the protagonist is a child. For the same reason, I think it could be very interesting to kids as a movie. That was the ambition from the beginning.”
“There’s something about the story that feels like a Mark Twain adventure,” observes a literary editor at the Los Angeles Times. “Maybe it’s the way Brolin’s character channels the guttural malice of Injun Joe or the way Mattie has a bit of Tom, Becky and Huck in her persona.”
As Mattie says to Rooster Cogburn, “They tell me you’re a man with true grit.”
He is.
So how does Jeff Bridge like standing in John Wayne’s boots? “It never crossed my mind when we were making the film,” he says. “It really didn’t.”
 [from Solares Hill]

Friday, January 21, 2011

Week of Jan. 21 to Jan. 27 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Stick with a good thing. That seems to be the motto at the Tropic this week. All five films from last week are being held over: THE KINGS’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, THE FIGHTER and ALL GOOD THINGS and BURLESQUE. The first three are bona fide hits, winner of Golden Globe awards and almost sure bets for Academy Award nominations when they’re announced next Tuesday, and the last two are sleeper hits.
This may be your last chance to catch them before the new crop of movies begins to roll in.

Meanwhile, have you never seen THE KEY WEST PICTURE SHOW? Drift down to the Tropic on Saturday for a treat. B.J. Martin’s evergreen pseudo-travelogue will unspool once again in its full forty-minute glory. This is Key West back in the day, 1977 that is. It was a time before cruise ships crowded Mallory dock, and the Pier House was just beginning to restore town as a prime tourist venue. Truman Annex was barely decommissioned as a Navy base, and its deserted buildings were a haven for artists seeking cheap working space.

Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear. As Sara Russell says in her famous closing quote, “Honey, you won’t see it again.” That’s Saturday morning at 12:30pm. Five bucks for members and a couple more if you’re not.

And come back on Sunday for a trip to Moscow, because the Bolshoi Ballet is coming to Key West again via live satellite transmission. This time it’s a balletomane’s double feature: CLASS CONCERT and GISELLE. The former is “is a gloriously romanticized version of the ballet class that dancers do every day. From exercises at the barre to displays of beauty and strength center stage,” while the latter is “one of the most technically demanding and emotionally challenging roles in classical dance.” (Washington Post). The double bill is live-in-the-moment at 11:00am EST (7:00pm in Moscow) and then again is what is euphemistically called “delayed live” at 7:00pm EST. This real ballet is an interesting contrast to BLACK SWAN.

Monday night brings the last of the January Classic series on Damsels in Distress, with the notorious SORRY, WRONG NUMBER, starring Barbara Stanwyck as the nagging, bedridden wife of henpecked Burt Lancaster, as both are caught up in a crossed-phone-lines thriller. If you’re interested, best get tickets in advance, because the series has been selling out.

And stay tuned for new feature films next week, maybe I Love You, Philip Morris; or 127 Hours; the opening of the February classics with a Black History Month theme; and a special film to celebrate the Key West Food and Wine Festival.

[from Key West, the newspaper -]

Golden Globes 2010 (Rhoades)

Golden Globes and the Tropic Cinema’s Lineup
By Shirrel Rhoades

Last week’s Golden Globes offered few surprises for this reviewer, other that Paul Giamatti’s win for “Barney’s Version” (which hasn’t made it to Key West yet).
However, the big news for Key West was that “The Kids Are All Right” racked up two major awards: Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical and a Best Actress win for Annette Bening. One of the executive producers of “The Kids Are All Right” is none other than our own Anne O’Shae, head of Minerva Productions as well as the reigning Fantasy Fest Queen. Congrats!
It was a good night for the Tropic Cinema too. Four of the winning films are currently showing at the Tropic – and are being held over to allow local moviegoers to catch any they’ve not yet seen. That’s why no new films are coming to its screens this week.
Here are the films and performances you can still see at the Tropic:
Colin Firth won as Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama for his turn as England’s stuttering George VI in “The King’s Speech.”
Natalie Portman was a shoo-in as Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama for her role as a haunted ballerina in “Black Swan.”
Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were awarded Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Motion Picture for their high-pitched performances in “The Fighter.”
And “Burlesque” scored the Best Original Song for Cher’s prophetic rendition of “You Haven’t Heard the Last of Me.”
May as well see them now to prepare yourself for February’s Academy Awards, sure to be a gala affair at the Tropic Cinema this year.

Sorry, Wrong Number (Rhoades)

No "Wrong Number" Here
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

“Sorry, Wrong Number” was first a 1943 “Suspense” radio play starring actress Agnes Moorehead. It was so well received, the live broadcast was restaged seven times, all starring Ms. Moorehead. It was essentially a one-woman show.

But in 1948 when “Sorry, Wrong Number” was turned into a movie, it starred Barbara Stanwyck.
What happened?

Years ago I escorted Agnes Moorehead around my old college campus. She was doing a talk with the school's drama department. Thin and frail, with sharp hawk-like features, she still displayed a feisty spirit. Mostly she talked about her recurring role on TV's “Bewitched” and made references to her early days in radio with Orson Welles. Her movie career didn't seem all that important to her.

But I had to ask. Why didn't she get the lead in the movie version of a role that she'd made famous?
"Ah, it wasn't surprising," she waved away my question. "At the time I was a radio actress. Barbara Stanwyck was a bankable movie star. Besides, she was great in it!"

That she was. Barbara Stanwyck made the character of the terrified bedridden hypochondriac her own. No small feat, for most of her emoting was confined to talking on the telephone while in a singular bedroom setting. Much more challenging than words-only over a radio.

We’ve all experienced “crossed wires” where we’ve picked up an unintended telephone conversation, even more so in this cellular age where signals flitter through the air like errant spirits. Usually it's some guy who thinks he’s talking to his mother or wife. But what if you overheard someone plotting a murder?

That’s what happened to Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) in “Sorry, Wrong Number,” the film noir classic that’s playing Monday night at the Tropic Cinema. It’s the latest entry in Craig Wanous’ Damsels in Distress Month of old-time movie masterpieces.

Craig shares trivia and fascinating background about the movies with his audience, making it a great night out for movie buffs.

Director Anatole Litvak used all the conventions of noir in “Sorry. Wrong Number” – darkness, looming shadows, circling camerawork, a sense of endangerment. The film was adapted by Lucille Fletcher from her radio play. No longer a monologue, the movie version uses flashbacks to build up the story.

Stanwyck’s plight is that of a woman trapped in a lush apartment, waiting for killers to arrive. The suspense mounts as she phones for help – trying to reach her wimpy husband (Burt Lancaster playing against type), the operator, the police. Only to be left on her own as she discovers that she’s in danger.

You’ll love how she pieces the mystery together one telephone call at a time as she tries to convince her doctor (a thin Wendell Corey), her rich daddy (a bloated Ed Begley), and her not-so-bright ne’er-do-well husband (ever-slick Burt Lancaster) that she needs their help.

While “Sorry, Wrong Number” was one of Barbara Stanwyck’s greatest roles, the actress crossed movie genres with ease, moving from melodrama (“Stella Dallas”) to screwball comedy (Preston Sturges’s “The Lady Eve”) to crime (the classic “Double Indemnity”) to romance (“Christmas in Connecticut”) to dusty westerns (“Cattle Queen of Montana”). Babyboomers will remember her as the matriarch of the Barkley cattle spread on TV's “The Big Valley.”

Nominated for an Academy Award four times (including for “Sorry, Wrong Number”) she never won. Later she was awarded honorary lifetime awards from the Motion Picture Academy, the Film Society at Lincoln Center, the Screen Actors Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics, and the Golden Globes. The American Film Institute ranks Stanwyck as the eleventh greatest female star of all time.

Ironic that one of Barbara Stanwyck’s jobs before breaking into the movies was as a telephone operator at $14 a week. Stanwyck (the former Ruby Stevens of Brooklyn, NY) did much better with wrong numbers in the movies.
[from Solares Hill]

My Ten Best (Rhoades)

My Ten Best Movies for 2010

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As Frank Sinatra used to sing, “It was a very good year.” Not a great year, but a very good year for movies. No knock-your-socks-off blockbusters like last year’s “Avatar,” but a number of notable films with very good performances.

Here are my picks among these goodies:

10. “The Town” – Ben Affleck returns to his Boston roots in this bank robbery picture that he wrote, directed, and stars in. A triple play that rejuvenated his career.

9. “The Fighter” – Boston-bred Mark Wahlberg gets the accents down pat, but Christian Bale has all the right punches in this boxing biopic.

8. “Get Low” – Robert Duvall is a crusty old mountaineer who plans his own funeral in this subtle comedy based on a true story.

7. “The Kids Are All Right” – Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star in this comedy about that nice lesbian couple next door. Key West’s own Anne O’Shea executive produced it.

6. “Inception” – Christopher Nolan juggles dreams within dreams in this multilayered sci-fi thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

5. “The King’s Speech” – Colin Firth stutters his way to Oscar buzz as speech-impaired King George VI.

4. “Black Swan” – Natalie Portman dances into our minds in this dark psychological thriller.

3. “Winter’s Bone” – Jennifer Lawrence is a backwoods girl in search of her missing dad in this hardscrabble tour de force.

2. “True Grit” – Jeff Bridges rides into Indian Territory as one-eyed Rooster Cogburn in this Coen Brothers’ redo of the western classic.

1. “The Social Network” – David Fincher’s film about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is actually a brilliant portrait of our technological age. And Jesse Eisenberg is a standout as the Harvard dropout who has 500 million friends … and a few enemies.

And here are a few Honorable Mentions:
Best Innovation: “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” – Michael Cera’s geeky loser gets to be a hero in this Bizarro World romance. A messy blend of comic books, video games, and the Internet crammed into a film format.
Best Action Flick: “Salt” – Angelina Jolie kicks butt as a Russian spy out for revenge on her masters.
Best Comic Book Movie: “Kick-Ass” – Yes, I liked it better than “Iron Man 2.” Sorry, my old pals at Marvel.
Best Crime Drama: “Animal Kingdom” – This Aussie gangster film is as violent as it is good.
Scariest Movie: “Paranormal Activity 2” – What you don’t see is more frightening than monsters or slashers.
Best Documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop” – Tilda Swinton’s boyfriend told me this was his favorite film of the year and that’s good enough for me.
Best Foreign Film: “Never Let Me Go” – A Merchant Ivory style film with a sci-fi twist. What a combo!
Best Teen Comedy: “Easy A” – Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”: gets updated in this breezy laughfest. A star turn for Emma Stone.
Best Romantic Comedy: “Letters to Juliet” – Beautiful Italian countryside and Vanessa Redgrave romancing real-life hubby Franco Nero, what more could you want?
Best Road Trip Comedy: “Due Date” – Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis are oil and water in this unlikely buddy picture.
Funnier Than I Expected: “Dinner for Schmucks” – This remake of the French comedy made me laugh.
Best Social Satire: “The Joneses” – A marketing campaign was never so targeted.
Best Animation: “Toy Story 3” – It was the top grossing film of the year, so how do you say no to Buzz Lightyear and Woody?

Okay, you ask, where’s “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” and “The Millennium Trilogy”? Where’s “Despicable Me” and “Tangled” and “How to Train Your Dragon”? Where’s Roman Polanski’s “Ghost Writer” and Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours”? Where’s Johnny Depp’s “The Tourist” and George Clooney’s “The American”? Where’s Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island”?

Hey, I only said it was a very good year. Everything can’t be a winner.
[from Solares Hill]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week of January 14 to January 20 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

What a difference a year makes. Last year, the two most talked about films in the Academy  Award run-up were an innovative CGI-3D spectacular (Avatar) and an unflinching war film about blowing things up (The Hurt Locker). It wasn’t until the envelope was opened that we learned that bombs beat blue things.

This year, everyone is talking about a movie that features kids doing computer programming and lawyers sitting around talking (The Social Network) and another about a guy who has trouble even talking (The King’s Speech). Hell, these movies could have just as easily been done on the stage, they are so lacking in what buffs call “production value.”  That’s a fancy term for movie eye candy.

I’m not complaining. My preference runs very strongly to serious character development and riveting plot. Those are the adult characteristics which have always dominated the Tropic’s schedule and distinguished it from Key West’s alternative movie venue in Searstown.  My absolute favorite this year is Winter’s Bone, the story of a teenage girl in the  Ozarks trying to save her family from the  predations of crystal meth dealers. It could well have been called “True Grit,” except that title was already taken.

Those of you who prefer movies where the filmmakers think they have to throw everything in their arsenals of effects up on the screen needn’t worry. This year also produced a leading Oscar contender with absolutely nothing real in it (Inception) and plenty of the ordinary crime-buster, car-chase genre (for example, The Town). It’s still a couple of weeks until the Academy Awards nominations are announced (Jan. 25), but this could be a year when cinema takes on movies at the awards.

Meanwhile,  at the Tropic the powerhouse trio of THE KING’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, and THE FIGHTER still reign. Each of these is a powerful human story, about  the struggle of an individual to achieve a challenging goal. Sometimes the obstacles come from within, from speech problems or from mental imbalance; and sometimes from without, from family pressures or external demands. This is the stuff of Drama, and we’re privileged to have so many fine examples to choose from.

Added to the mix this week is ALL GOOD THINGS, a true-crime tale based on the life of Robert Durst, the mentally troubled son of a powerful New  York real-estate magnate.  Young Durst, described in TrueCrimeReport as “The Millionaire Cross-Dressing Serial Killer,” earned his moniker without ever being convicted of murder. But oh what a saga, starting with the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful wife. Kirsten Dunst is the wife, Ryan Gosling is young Durst, and Frank Langella is his domineering father.

For Special Events, Monday brings a presentation of FOR THE NEXT 7 GENERATIONS, the documentary story of a group  of grandmothers who united to  save the planet. Part of  the Tropic’s Visiting Filmmaker series, the director and one of the grandmothers will be there via Skype for a Q & A after the  show.


Wednesday brings the ballet  GISELLE from the Royal Ballet and on Thursday it’s the opera with CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA from La Scala.


And don’t forget the Monday Night Movie Classic, with Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, a film that Rotten Tomatoes calls “one of the most unblinkingly perverse movies ever offered up as a prestige picture by a major studio.” 

Comments, please, to

Burlesque (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

We all get excited by what we think we shouldn't see. In 1992, as an undergrad at the University of Miami, I got excited by Paul Verhoeven, the director of  over-sexed films  like "Basic Instinct" and the vapid but flashy "Showgirls". Because of the hype and high, I thought I was peeking at something forbidden, flashing images that seemed numinous, sexy and occult. If only for a few minutes.
In watching "Burlesque", I recalled some of that feeling from long ago. Alone in the dark watching the projected rays of cleavage born from light. And just maybe I might see something unexpected.
There is that familiar cinema darkness. Then the camera opens on a small Midwestern Iowa town. Bright blue sky. An old rustic bar. We are in the twenty-first century but the setting might as well be an old postcard enhanced by computer graphics---The Old West.

Ali (Christina Aguilera) is an unhappy bartender who wants out. She dreams of big Hollywood and wants to dance. (yes, like so many movies before). Ali gives notice in a breathy huff. She closes up. 
Even though the story has been much repeated and the plot is as thin as nail polish, Christina Aguilera comes off as a crafty, covert and comically-charged Betty Boop with more Pop Art allure than Madonna in "Dick Tracy".
Ali walks the busy L.A. streets finally hitting club Burlesque in the California twilight. On the rickety landing one voluptuous dancer is dressing for the show, her face a droplet of sex in the semidarkness. For this one minute, it is a portrait painted in light, a Toulouse Lautrec re-imagined in for the 21st century. Excitement. Mystery. Maybe even something scary in the unseen.
But when the light gives away the confines of the club, the camera races and the pace of the film mimics the quick staccato pulses of a Victoria's Secret commercial rather than the haunting beauty of a new Moulin Rouge in motion.
There is Broadway veteran  Alan Cumming in the club as a doorman MC. He has the aura of Joel Grey seen through the lens of a vampire with the impish smirk of Pee Wee Herman. Even the bartender wears mascara. If only the club had real vampires.
Ali doesn't know what to do but she smiles and sighs, then she just picks up the glasses. Voila, she's a waitress!
The bartender (Cam Gigandel) spends half the time with his shirt off and looks like a model, but that's the idea. Flesh works both ways.
Allie manages to crash at his place. After all, she can't go out in the rain! I guess taxis aren't cool enough for her.
The next day she catches the eye of Tess during an audition. She'll have to work her way up. Tess, played by Cher, is half Diva and half Dracula's Daughter and that is also part of the fun. 
Throw into the mix a jealous dancer Nikki played by Kristen Bell, whose performance is more than a bit similar to Winona Ryder in "Black Swan" and there is enough breezy kitsch to keep your eyes in candy.
The sole interest in the film is the mixture of comedy and inky melodrama provided by Christina Aguilera. Through her three dimensional voice, she  can either be a Betty Boop or a blues woman, outlined in the sexiness of Jessica Rabbit. Her magic in the role is that she is genuine and unforced. Often Aguilera seems the only human character on screen. Perhaps this is not by chance.
The oddest scene in the movie is to see the Morticia-like Cher next to the ingenue Christina. Will she one day become like Cher? The contrast is both striking and similar. It is a haunting moment.
And even though the abrupt tycoon (Eric Dane) is defeated in seconds, I still couldn't look away.
I just had to peer through the darkness. 

Sent from my iPhone

Next 7 Generations (Rhoades)

“Next 7 Generations” Brings Wisdom from 13 Grandmothers
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Key West’s Gail Lima introduces Tropic audiences to an interesting film this week, a sacred journey in which 13 indigenous grandmothers have formed an alliance to impart their native wisdom to the world.
Gail tells the story of encountering an owl on her first date with her late husband Franko Richmond. She later witnessed an owl swooping down during a meeting attended by the wizen Grandmothers. “It was a sign,” she believes.

“I recently spent time with the Grandmothers at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York,” says Gail, “and want to share their message with all of you who are interested.”

How did this International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers come about? A spiritual teacher and researcher on native cultures named Jyoti had a vision telling her to invite women from various tribes to come together. This included elders from the Hopi, the Iroquois, the Inuit, India, African tribes, and Brazilian clans.

Of the 16 invited, 13 responded, all saying they had been anticipating such an invitation.
Rita Pika Blumenstein, the Grandmother from the Artic Circle, said she had been given 13 feathers as a child and told to wait for the calling. When the dozen-plus-one women convened, Rita handed each of them a feather as a token of their predestined gathering.

At the end of that 10-day gathering in 2004 they decided to form the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

Award-winning producer-director Carole Hart has documented this in a film titled “For the Next 7 Generations: The Grandmothers Speak.” The film is narrated by Ashley Judd. It will be showing tomorrow night from 7:30 to 9:30 at the Tropic Cinema.

As these Grandmothers traveled together around the world – from Dharmasala, India, to the Amazon Rain forest, to mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico – Carole and her cameras accompanied them, documenting “their travels, their prayers, and how they have touched and changed the lives of those around them.”
The aim of these healers, shamans, and medicine women is to lay out visions and goals for 7 generations to come.

Hart explains, “The constitution of the United States was based on many of the premises stated in the Iroquois constitution. But they left out the great law of the Iroquois Confederacy, which states that ‘In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next 7 generations.’” The grandmothers hope to remedy this omission.

Think of them as a futurist Think Tank, but offering ancient knowledge combined with New Age insights.
Can they light the way for a peaceful and sustainable planet? They believe so, because they were told in prophecy that their ancestral ways of prayer, peace making, and healing are vitally needed in the world today.
Carole Hart elaborates, “The Grandmothers’ message is one of hope for the future. Their movie will help people experience a shift in consciousness that will lead to a new way for them to see their world and to be in it, a way simply stated, that will awaken their love for their Mother Earth, and all its inhabitants, us two-leggeds, our one-leggeds, our four-leggeds, Once their hearts are open, all else will flow. This love is the most powerful change agent in the world.”

How did this documentary come about? As Hart tells it, “I’m a filmmaker and I’ve had personal experience with Indigenous healing ways. I received a miraculous cure from a terminal cancer in 1994 through a Native American Church ceremony. After that I went through 3 years of Stargate, Jyoti’s mystery school, so I was there when the idea of this gathering came about. I saw what an historic event this was going to be and felt it needed to be documented on film.”

But ask her about it yourself. After the Tropic’s showing of “For the Next 7 Generations,” Carole Hart will entertain questions from the audience via Skype. And one of the 13 Grandmothers may be on hand via
satellite too.

Yes, visions come to us in many different ways.
[from Solares Hill]

All Good Things (Rhoades)

“All Good Things” Tells Us of Bad Things
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Living in New York at the time, I remember the events this film is based on. Bobby Durst, scion of a wealthy Scarsdale real estate family, was suspected of murdering his wife Kathleen McCormack and his friend Susan Berman. Berman’s body was found executed in her California home. McCormack simply disappeared. Her last known words were “If something happens to me, check it out. I’m afraid of what Bobby will do.”
Durst was questioned in both cases, but not charged.

Eventually he moved to Texas where he passed himself off as a woman named Dorothy Ciner. Dorothy’s apartment had a frequent visitor, a male alter ego who introduced himself as Robert Durst.

Later he went on the lam after an elderly neighbor’s body parts floated up in Galveston Bay. Declared America's first billion-dollar fugitive, he was arrested at a Wegman’s Supermarket near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for shoplifting a $5.49 chicken sandwich and a Band-Aid (despite having $600 cash in his pocket). He was wearing a woman’s brown wig and a false blond mustache. In his rented car police found another $37,000, two guns, and his dead neighbor’s driver’s license.

Claiming self-defense, he was subsequently acquitted of his neighbor’s murder, but wound up in prison for bond jumping. After serving his time, he soon found himself back behind bars for violating the terms of his parole by making an unauthorized trip to a mall where he bumped into the presiding judge.

Robert Alan Durst’s story has become legendary in popular culture. In 2004, TV’s “Law & Order” based an episode on his case. And a 2010 film directed by Andrew Jarecki offers a fictionalized version his story. The film’s title comes from the name of a health food store the real-life Dursts invested in.

That film – “All Good Things” – is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Two A-list actors, Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, star as the crazed husband and at-risk wife. Here they are called David and Katie Marks. Frank Langella takes on the role of the father.

Bobby Durst and his wife Kathleen had maintained a home in South Salem, NY, not far from my own Westchester County home. I drove past their place many times, wondering what drove Durst to such bizarre crimes. Was it the marijuana he habitually used? Was it the fact that he witnessed his mother’s suicide at age 7? Was it his disappointment that his brother Douglas was tapped to run the family empire? Or that his wife wanted a divorce, threatening to reveal that he’d embezzled from the company if he didn’t comply?

“All Good Things” doesn’t attempt to give us the answer. But it chronicles the strange relationship of Bobby … er, David ... and his wife.

The film offers some fictional twists and turns. But in this case you gotta admit that truth is stranger than fiction.
[from Solares Hill]

Burlesque (Rhoades)

“Burlesque” Will Definitely Entertain You
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Here in Key West we have a sexy burlesque troupe led by Marky Pierson that includes such glitzy performers as Cheeky Derriere, Moana Amour, Lola Lafleur, and the fabulous Tatah Dujour. They sing, they dance, they jiggle a few tassels.

Yes, they’re very entertaining.

That’s why I was eager to see “Burlesque,” the new movie musical that’s putting on a performance at the Tropic Cinema. I wondered just how far Cher and Christina Aguilera would go to entertain us.

Well, pretty far. These gals sure know how to belt out a song. The two popular singers deliver such numbers as “Welcome to Burlesque,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” and “Bound to You.” Cher does a prophetic rendition of “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” while Christina reprises her record hit, “Express.”
Don’t look for twirling tassels, but the film’s production numbers are well choreographed with plenty of shimmies and shakes.

The familiar story of a nice small-town girl lured by the siren call of show biz provides a comfortable backdrop for this Cabaret-inspired musical. It’s Cinderella with glitter.
Stanley Tucci is steal-the-show perfect as the Los Angeles neo-burlesque club’s manager. Cam Gigandet appears as Christina’s love interest. You’ll also find Alan Cummin, Kristen Bell, Julianne Hough, Eric Dane, and Peter Gallagher standing in the wings.

Christina Aguilera made her real-life debut at 10, appearing on TV’s “Star Search.” That led to a two-year gig on “The Mickey Mouse Club” alongside such up-and-comers as Brittany Spears, Jessica Simpson, and Justin Timberlake. After recording a song for Disney’s “Mulan,” she signed a record deal with RCA. According to Billboard, she’s the biggest selling singles artist of the decade, second only to Madonna.
“Burlesque” is Christina’s first feature film. “Once I found the script for my first movie, given the fact that burlesque is straight up my alley, it all happened pretty fast,” says the curvy blonde singer. “I was also told that the script was originally written by Diablo Cody, a writer that knows very well the subject matter since she too quit her day job and became a stripper.”

The racy theme may elicit another phone call from Christina’s grandmother, who upon seeing one of her music videos exclaimed, “I nearly died when I saw she was wearing so little. I rang her mom and said, ‘Oh my God, what is Christina doing?’”

Returning to the big screen for the first time in a decade, 64-year-old Cher looks pretty hot. But Christina, 34 years her junior, carries the show – singing, dancing, strutting, even emoting. As Cher tells it, “I went up to her and said, ‘Christina, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for all your life. Not your character’s life, but yours. It’s now or never.’ Moments later I watched her pull years of tears out of those baby blue eyes. Yeah! I know this beautiful child can go as far, and as deep, as she wants to go. I’m proud of her and I am proud to be in this film with her.”

Cher herself led a life not unlike the heroine of “Burlesque.” She tells about leaving home at 16 and breaking into show business. “One day I just said to my mom, ‘This is it! I’m finished with all this crap. I don’t want to go to school anymore. I don’t really feel like being told what to do anymore. I want to get out on my own.’ I just walked out. I’d had it. I left home and moved in with my girlfriend.” Then she met Sonny Bono.

“Sonny had been trying to do a whole bunch of things in show business before he met me,” says Cher. “When he saw me, everything kind of clicked into place for him. I was like raw, aimless, untamed energy, and he saw a way to give it direction. He molded me. His dream was to push me into being a huge star.” The rest is, as they say, show biz history.

Christina Aguilera is on her way to making history too. Of her starring role in “Burlesque” she says. “It was the best experience ever. I got to work with Cher.”
[from Solares Hill]

All Good Things (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

All Good Things

There is something rotten at the health food store. But you wouldn't know it from the first moments of "All Good Things", the docudrama based on the life of Robert Durst, a real estate investor who was questioned in the disappearance of his wife in 1982 and the murder of his neighbor in 2000. The case of his wife is still unsolved. He was acquitted in the murder of his neighbor, Morris Black , by self-defense. In adulthood, Durst was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and has deep seated personality problems to say the least. Perhaps this was because he witnessed his mother's suicide. Perhaps not.
As the opening credits roll, we see an All-American family: blue sky, ice cream, a swimming pool, a big country house. 
As the Durst Doppelgänger David Marks, actor Ryan Gosling conveys an amiable but shy young man who comes to check on Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Young David is part Gatsby and part idealist. He wants no part of his father, played chillingly by Frank Langella, or his business which is real estate. David wants to "go back to the earth" and open a health food store named, All Good Things. Family pressure builds. David's father belittles him harshly, without remorse. David relents. He joins his father's business. Seemingly overnight, David Marks transforms into a hopeful Bud Fox from "Wall Street" but his face speaks of Franz Kafka--pale and under duress. Curiously with a 1970s soundtrack by Steely Dan and other disco hits, the movie takes on a Scorsesean pace. Switching to an  edgy and tense "Goodfellas" story of a man who just wishes to be average.  It is the most compelling part of the film.
Tension accelerates as David's dream of organic living is left behind. David's job is as his father's dishwasher of sorts, collecting rents unscrupulously from slums and porno houses. Paranoia sets in. Cops leer in the background. David goes to disco parties, gazing blankly at the glittering ladies of intention. He also attempts primal scream therapy in the quiet afternoon sun. Katie wants kids. The spectral and sweaty David says No: something is "wrong" with him. Nuff said.
When Katie gets accepted to med school and has a party, David rages. He grabs his wife by the hair and shatters a glass near her face. Katie leaves the marriage. She looks at his incriminating accounts, then returns home. Abruptly David resembles Michael Myers from "Halloween" more than a human being. 
Did I miss something?
Katie makes a bloodcurdling discovery: David brutally killed the dog. A psychotic? Schizophrenia? Autism? The movie leaves it open. Katie disappears and as icing on the sinister cake, David's girlfriend somehow agrees to dress as Katie to fool authorities.
David goes into hiding becoming a transvestite or wait! Is it Michael Caine from "Dressed to Kill"? David befriends a middle aged man (actor Phillip Baker Hall from "Seinfeld") with an enthusiasm for guns. The man gets an eviction notice and threatens David with a gun. David beats him to a pulp, and dumps his dismembered body in the lake, in full drag. 
The last scene shows David Marks in the elevator singing an uplifting spiritual ditty, which echoes the final image of Norman Bates in "Psycho" ("why, I'm not going to even swat that fly").
"All Good Things" is a split screen mirror of two films: one half heartfelt chase of innocence, one half American Psycho Horror Show. 
The most disturbing part of the film is that the real Mr. Durst is now living in Florida after three years in prison (for the illegal disposal of a body) and is continuing work as a real estate investor.

Write to Ian at

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Week of January 7 to January 13 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Three big films at the Tropic are being held over for another week: THE KING’S SPEECH, BLACK SWAN, and THE FIGHTER. It’s not difficult to understand why. These are three of the hottest movies of the year. Just last week, the Writers Guild and the Producers Guild announced their nominees for best picture, and this trio made both lists, so it’s a safe bet that they’ll also be in the Academy Award list when it is announced later this month. A triple Don’t Miss alert.

Meanwhile, Scot and Matthew are using the flexibility of The George digital theater to keep things interesting with some new treats. This week it’s a mix of a French charmer and a searing documentary.

INSPECTOR BELLAMY, is the last film from legendary French New Wave director Claude Chabrol, who died last September (and will almost surely make the Oscar montage of lost souls this year). His new movie is a combination of a country house drama and a detective story. Chabrol has often been described as a French Alfred Hitchcock. He co-authored the first serious study of Hitchcock’s work, and was clearly influenced by it. When you see the opening scene of Inspector Bellamy, with the camera panning over a cemetery and the sound of a whistler in the background, you pick up on that tone.

Gerard Depardieu is the eponymous inspector, on vacation from Paris at his home in the south of France, when he is confronted by a self-confessing “sort of” murderer who wanders into his garden. The inspector can’t resist the busman’s holiday of investigating this crime, but he also has to deal with his naughty younger brother who comes visiting, and his loving wife, who wishes they had gone on a Nile cruise instead. It all makes for "a nifty mystery told in an unconventional but charming way" ( that shows Depardieu at his shambling best, and provides a memorable adieu from Chabrol.

A FILM UNFINISHED provides a different window on the Holocaust, looking at it through German propaganda eyes. Discovered in Nazi vaults after the war were reels of a silent film titled Das Ghetto, which purported to show life in the Warsaw ghetto as the Nazi’s wanted it to be shown, with rich Jews enjoying their wealth and callously ignoring their poorer brethren. But then an additional reel was discovered that showed how the propaganda was staged. This film about a film about a film is a fascinating look not only at the particular event, but at why documentary cinema can be as creative as narrative film. Or, as the Dallas Morning News puts it, A Film Unfinished “reminds us of film's inherent capacity for lying.”

The Monday Night Classic continues its Damsel in Distress theme with Otto Preminger’s 1944 film LAURA, starring Gene Tierney as a woman “surrounded by luxury, mystery and scheming men,” Clifton Webb as the gentleman who Pygmalion-like trained her, and Dana Andrews as the detective investigating her murder. “A highly polished and debonair whodunit.” (Time Magazine)

Full schedules and info at or
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A Film Unfinished (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Film Unfinished

"A Film Unfinished" presents nothing less heinous than the manipulation of history by the Nazi regime in 1942, focusing on the Warsaw ghetto. After the war, a film was found in a warehouse with the simple title of "ghetto" on the canister. The contents are as startling as they are offensive containing propaganda of supposed wealthy Jewish residents dining in expensive restaurants, ignoring incredible despair and death, staging elegant ladies dancing while starving bodies collapse in the street. Nazi officials rehearse and instruct residents to walk by corpses,turning up their noses with pride.

One astounding image shows a young man fainting in the street as a rich display case is prepared. The insidious aim of this propaganda was to show people in the infamous ghetto going about their business eating and drinking with great freedom. Everyday business. Moreover, to even coerce the residents to ignore death without concern. All was choreographed with the intention of an Epic. Those who endure poverty deserve it as others rightly dance. The reality could not be more opposite or evil.

The second reel shows circumcision rituals staged in a haphazard fashion with the overt meaning that the residents are ridiculous and ancient and can only be meant for death.
Director Yael Hersonski is unflinching in her detail of the Nazis' sinister shadow play. The film is often slowed down to show the victims of the notorious ghetto. The residents seem to glare out with a karmic awareness, projecting ghosts of themselves that forever resist. The Nazis appear as they were: deliberate, leather-clad and imperious. Faceless in black and white. A surviving cameraman speaks. A Willie Wist. He knew nothing of the propaganda at the time. He was merely told to shoot.

Through the film we learn the legacy of Adam Czerniakow, put in charge by the Nazis of the Jewish council, but who ultimately led a Resistance, by telling everyone to keep a record of events. Czerniakow committed suicide when he learned the ghetto was soon to be liquidated, its residents killed.

The Nazis had all intentions of burying the film, a horrible euphemistic charade. Perhaps they did not count on the future, when other men and women would find these four laconic reels, hold them up to the light and dispel the ghosts of delusion.

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