Saturday, July 30, 2011

Week of July 29 to August 4 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Here’s a movie that everyone loves: BEGINNERS. Christopher Plummer (last seen at the Tropic as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station) and Ewan McGregor (recently seen as the title character in both The Ghost Writer and I Love You Phillip Morris) join their talents as a father and son rediscovering each other at a late stage of life. The father is 75 and widowed, when he suddenly announces to his son, age 38, that he is gay… and has terminal cancer.

I know, the plot doesn’t sound promising. But in the hands of these master actors, you are drawn to their story as the father and son, in extremis, form a bond that they could never forge in better times, and change the son forever. “A sad, sweet, funny and ultimately unforgettable love story about a man and a woman and a father and son, and also ranks among the most affectionate and sensitive portraits of homosexuality ever crafted by a straight person.” (

The power of CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, doesn’t come from plot or character, because there is none. Rather it is our sense of amazement that captivates us. Director Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo, Grizzly Man) obtained unique permission to take cameras into the ancient caves at Chauvet in Southern France to photograph the remarkable paintings on the walls. The artistic quality of some of these depictions of animals would rank the unknown illustrator with any contemporary painter. Yet the images are as much as 32,000 years old, and the artists from a preliterate, prehistoric world that seems impossibly removed from ours. To all the definitions of the essential differences between man and other creatures, we might add: the ability to make art. In any event, this will be your only opportunity to see these paintings, because the caves are not regularly open to the public, and are available even to scholars only for limited periods each year. A “cinematic mind trip that blows you away.” (New York Daily News)

The art in CARS 2 is a little bit more recent, and of course the creatures depicted are mechanical rather than horses and woolly mammoths. I read somewhere that the artistic breakthrough in the original Cars, maintained in this sequel, was to move the vehicles’s eyes from the headlights, where you might intuitively expect to find them, up to in the windshields, giving them a more human-like visage. Would you say that this cinema art shows the advance of humanity over 320 centuries? Well, that’s not the point is it? Summertime is for kids, too. Let them enjoy this “this lightning-paced caper-comedy [that] shifts the franchise into high gear with international intrigue.” (

PAGE ONE, LARRY CROWNE, BAD TEACHER, and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS are held over, all probably for the last week. Fair warning.

Now that we’re in August, the Monday Summer of Fun Movie Classics is shifting themes, to Murder and Mayhem. First up is THE EVIL DEAD (1981), the directorial debut of Sam Rami (Spiderman 1,2,3 and Drag Me to Hell). Do you like guys chopping up their girlfriends with axes, trees raping women, and horribly possessed demons? Then queue up on Monday night for this cult classic. You know who you are.

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


Bill Iddings said...

Never having met despite once standing within a few feet of each other, internationally acclaimed German movie maker Werner Herzog and I had gone one-on-one before.
Sort of.
The first time was 1994, when Herzog aced me out to play first base on the same “celebrity” softball team in Telluride, Colo.
The reason: He was a celebrity, and I was just some guy from a Muskegon, Mich., newspaper, trying to get a different angle on covering the Telluride Film Festival.
My latest Herzog confrontation -- if anyone who doesn’t confuse The 10 Commandments with the Seven Deadly Sins, the Five Basic Food Groups or the Seven Dwarfs could call it that -- was 17 years later.
On a sunny, hot Midwestern afternoon this summer, I was the only patron watching a matinee screening of Herzog’s newest documentary, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
I marveled at a work that reported the history of and relatively recent discoveries in Chauvet Cave, a cave in southern France, the walls of which are adorned with the oldest cave drawings in the world.
As he often does in his docs, Herzog serves as his own narrator: making observations, asking questions, drawing conclusions and stretching metaphors.
The most captivating moments of “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” though, are those when cameras scan the cave walls.
Accompanied only by instrumental music and some angelic singing, Herzog reveals manmade wonders that few people -- access is severely restricted -- will ever seen in person.
To date, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” has grossed more money than any film documentary released this year.
A certain Oscar nominee, its box office performance is five times that of the doc that stands in second place, “The Last Lions.”
So, yes, Werner Herzog knows how to make a movie.
Did that give him the right to lay claim to first base when I wanted it?
Back almost a generation ago in Telluride, the roster of “my” softball team included porn star Nina Hartley.
She played one shortstop on a team that had two in the infield at the same time. If I remember correctly, Hartley ran out two hits, the most of any player on our squad.
Her appearances at the plate were accompanied by a number of infantile remarks snickered loud enough to reach not only her ears but also the stands.
Hartley just smiled, shrugged it off and swung away.
As the film critic for the Muskegon Chronicle, I was the only player who wasn’t some degree of celebrity (outside of a few West Michigan zip codes), so I had that going for me.
Everybody else was announced by name when they came to bat.
Applause, applause.
Dead silence; No one had a clue who I was.
Umpired by former Negro Leagues star Buck O’Neill, the game against the Telluride town team was being played because Ken Burns’ 18 1/2-hour, soon-to-be-award-winning documentary “Baseball” was making its world premiere at the film festival.
When asked our position preferences, I told Coach Burns that I favored first.
I did not tell him my reason was that, given the nature of slow-pitch softball, that position, outside of catcher, usually requires the least physical movement.
In deference to his buddy, Werner, Burns instead consigned me as reserve right fielder.
Some years before, a sportswriter covering a game in which I was playing centerfield described my ability with “He puts excitement back into a pop fly.”
Roaming the Telluride grass out in the waning innings of our loss, I pulled a leg muscle the first time I chased down a fly ball.
I think I’m still limping; a belated thanks, then, to both Herzog and Burns, for nothing.
Which brings me back to “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” a film that deserves an audience.
Any more solo screenings and “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” is going to gone quicker than Nina Hartley can inspire some bonehead to make a stupid remark.

watch movies online said...

"Beginners" is a delightful film - gentle, playful, creative and ultimately happy - though it's a tricky journey.