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.” 

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