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 -]

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