Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week of December 9 to December 15 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

LIKE CRAZY took the top prize at Sundance last January, continuing a string of great movies in recent years (Winter’s Bone 2010, Precious 2009, Frozen River 2008). Each was nominated for an Academy Award, and each kicked off the careers of an actress – Jennifer Lawrence, Gabourey Sidibe, Melissa Leo. But this time, rather than being a tough account of people in grinding poverty and dismal circumstances, Like Crazy is an uplifting story of young love between nice middle-class people. It’s almost as if the judges had a subconscious urge to shout Hallajuhah! there is another world out there.

The story begins in California and winds up transatlantic. Jacob (Aton Yelchin, stretching his skills beyond Terminator Salvation and Star Trek) and Anna (Felicity Jones, moving beyond historical dramas like The Tempest and Northanger Abbey) meet at U.C.L.A. where he is a teaching assistant for her writing class, and she is a Brit on a student visa. Their attraction is mutual and instant, and it develops over the summer into a visa overstay, until it is dashed by the immigration service's refusal to let her return to the US after a visit back to Britain.

Can love survive a 5,000 mile separation is the theme, simple enough. But the quality of the movie is all in the execution. Because of the superb performances of this couple, and the sure-handed touch of young director Drake Doremus, it becomes “a romantic drama that makes other romantic films look obvious and calculated in comparison.” (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle). An added bonus is Jennifer Lawrence as Jacob’s replacement girlfriend. “Like Crazy is a cinematic love potion and you leave it feeling bewitched.” (Mary Pols, Time Magazine). Academy Award Alert!

One of the strengths of the Tropic is its willingness to show fascinating films that we might never see or know about in any other way. THE MILL AND THE CROSS is a perfect example. Polish Director Lech Majewski, an artist himself, has created a cinematic depiction of a classic painting, Pieter Breugel’s The Way to Calvary. This large canvas (roughly 5’ by 4’) painted in 1564, depicts a vast panorama of Sixteenth Century life in Flanders. Because it is populated by 500 figures, a viewer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where it is housed, might need a magnifying glass to examine them all. But Majewski takes us into the world of the painting, guided by Breugel himself (Rutger Hauer- Blade Runner), his patron (Michael York) and Mary (Charlotte Rampling). It’s an historical transformation, moving the Crucifixion to a century and a half later and to Belgium, and substituting oppressive Spanish soldiers for Romans.

The Mill and the Cross is a film of great beauty, but it’s also a lesson in history and art, from an explanation of the composition of the canvas to a depiction of the horrors of life in a world under the dominance of the Inquisition. It ’’captures the wish that some of us have had while standing in front of a great painting. What hangs before us is so striking, beautiful, strange, vast, horrifying, ethereal, lifelike - so alive - that we’re desperate to enter the other side of the canvas, to be inside the painting.” (Wesley Morris, Boston Globe).

Want something more ordinary? Don’t despair. THE RUM DIARY and J. EDGAR are held over, along with Pedro Almdovar’s THE SKIN I LIVE IN and Lars Von Trier’s MELANCHOLIA.

And the lecture series presented by the Heart Institute of the Florida Keys continues on Wednesday at 11:00am with a talk on WHAT SHOULD I EAT? Free and open to the public.

Full schedules and info at or

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