Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Week of February 4 to February 10

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Two more Academy Award nominees open this week.

On the main Carper theater screen, there’s BLUE VALENTINE, the much talked-about story of a disintegrating marriage. Ryan Gosling (who just finished his Tropic run in All Good Things) is the guy and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island) is the girl. It’s her nomination for Best Actress that gives the movie its Oscar chops.

Director Derek Cianfrance worked on developing the movie for twelve years; Williams has been involved for six, and Gosling for four. Yet it wasn’t completely scripted, leaving the actors free to improvise their emotions and actions in critical scenes. We see them at different stages, when they’re young and adorable and in love, when they’re struggling with money and the reality of life, and when they fail to regenerate that early love in a sordid motel. The result is “an intimate, gorgeous and wrenching portrait of a working-class marriage” (,  “brutal, compassionate, beautiful in its ugliness and one of the bravest films of the year” (NY Observer), “a work so beautifully acted and emotionally honest it is my choice for best movie of the year” (NY Daily News). This is independent film at its best, shot on a budget of only $1 million, a labor of love for all the principals. A must see.

In The George theater, there’s INSIDE JOB the “sleek, briskly paced …. meticulous and infuriating documentary about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis of 2008” (New York Times) that’s in the running for Best Documentary. It’s not the simplest subject, but director Charles Ferguson carefully blends talking heads with illuminating footage to make a “furiously interesting and hugely infuriating” (Wall St. Journal) exposition of the financial depression that lingers on.

Beyond that, three of this year’s Best Picture nominees continue their runs – THE KING’S SPEECH, THE FIGHTER, and TRUE GRIT – and the week is packed with Special Events.

Friday and Saturday nights mark the debut of the Tropic’s Late Night live events. Multi-talented performer Tom Judson brings his one-man show CANNED HAM  to town. It’s an insider 's musical that recounts the true life adventures of Judson, an established actor off and on Broadway, who, at age 43, became the gay porn star "Gus Mattox." He composed music for films and television (including Metropolitan, MTV and even Sesame Street) and performed in road companies of Cabaret and 42nd Street before falling on hard times, and then hitting his stride again with his new show. Judson is a hunk, for sure, but he’s a charmer and a talented musician, too. Accompanying himself on the accordion, he describes such things as what it's really like on the set of a porn movie. Expect graphic language and adult themes, but comedy, not nudity.

Monday night brings the opening of the February Classic Soul Cinema curated by Lori Reid. Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katherine Hepburn star in the classic about interracial marriage, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER.  This timely film was released in the same year (1967) that the Supreme Court struck down state anti-miscegenation laws in the aptly titled Loving vs. Virginia. Life imitates art.

Midweek brings high culture to the theater. On Tuesday it’s the Vivaldi ballet CALIGULA, via satellite from the Paris Opera Ballet. The live performance is at 1:30pm EST (7:30pm in Paris), with an encore showing at 7:00pm EST. And on Wednesday, it’s Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET in high def from the Globe Theatre in London. Filmed before a live audience in this reconstruction of the original Elizabethan arena, the camera makes you part of the action. Two performances, at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. [Please note that there will be no shows of Inside Job on Tuesday or Wednesday.]

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