Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Week of November 11 to November 17 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

What happens when you take a historical/intellectual puzzler and put it in the hands of a director of uber-Hollywood movies? In ANONYMOUS, Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, 10,000 B.C) takes on the challenge of correctly attributing Shakespeare’s works. Proceeding from an elitist assumption that no country bumpkin commoner could have possibly produced such masterpieces, Emmerich unabashedly makes the case for a high-bred fellow, the Earl of Oxford.

Okay, that claim has been debunked many times over. It’s hogwash. But who cares when we’ve got a randy Queen, brilliant costumes and a lush immersion into the world of Elizabethan England. It’s “a marvelous historical film…. a splendid experience: the dialogue, the acting, the depiction of London, the lust, jealousy and intrigue.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Quite the opposite is the director of HIGHER GROUND, Vera Farmiga, who has told interviewers “I can’t do Los Angeles.” Farmiga’s breakthrough role as an actor in Up in the Air, where she played the female counterpart to George Clooney’s corporate axe man, established her as a sexy, smart and sophisticated woman. Now she has turned her talents to a cinema adaptation of Carolyn Briggs’ story of struggling with fundamentalist faith -- A Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost. It’s not an easy subject to take on, but one senses there is something in Farmiga’s background that has prepared her. She’s one of seven children, brought up in a Ukrainian enclave in New Jersey where she didn’t even speak English until age six. In addition to directing, she plays the lead character, Corrine, and her teen-aged sister Taissa plays her in flashbacks.

We follow Corrine’s journey into, and out of, an evangelical community, without judgment, and with a touch of humor. Higher Ground is “a sincerely humane examination of what it means to experience a crisis of faith. Tender, bittersweet and often gently comedic” (Jeanette Catsoulis, NPR)

Since we missed last week (Welcome Back Blue Paper!!) let me bring you up to date on the holdovers. MARGIN CALL and IDES OF MARCH examine two different, but equally sinister sides of American life.

In Margin Call it is Wall Street’s penchant for elaborate, overleveraged, gambling that masquerades as investing. With Kevin Spacey as a trader with a conscience, and Jeremy Irons as the boss without one, we get a thrilling ride in the world of high finance that is “easily the best Wall Street movie ever made.” (David Denby, New Yorker).

The subject of Ides of March is presidential political campaigning, a quadrennial, over-financed manipulation of the American public. George Clooney is the candidate who wants to be pure – dream on – and Ryan Gosling is the ambitious campaign manager who figures out how to get his way. “This taut cautionary tale explores the dark side of American politics. And leaves the viewer to wonder - if anyone's still wondering - is there a bright side? (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer)

If you really want the bright side, catch MONEYBALL, the saga of how Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s (Brad Pitt) defied conventional baseball wisdom and lived to tell the tale.

Or show up on Sunday at 8:00pm for the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW on the big screen, and make your own bright side. Your $20 ticket includes a free prop bag, but you’re on your own for costumes. Hosted by Frank Bradbary, it’s all for the benefit of the Tropic.

Tuesday brings the the British Royal Opera to the screen with Puccini’s TOSCA. Love, torture, political corruption, it’s all there, with a cast featuring Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel, and the Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra.

Save a future date. On Monday, November 21, author Susan Orlean will be on stage talking about her new book on Rin Tin Tin, and showing one of Rinty’s classic silent films. This reviewer caught her performance at the New York Film Festival. Top-notch.
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