Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week of March 30 to April 5 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

FRIENDS WITH KIDS. Time for some (rom)comic relief. But with bite. Take a couple of the stars from Bridesmaids (Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd), and everybody’s favorite hunk from Mad Men (Jon Hamm), and throw in an awesome hunkette (Megan Fox), and you have the background for a modern urban fable. What happens when two Yubbies (young urban Brooklynites) decide to have a baby without committing to a relationship. You’ve heard of “friends with benefits?” How about “friends with burdens?”

Writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) is Julie, the female lead, with Adam Scott as Jason, her live-action sperm donor. Thanks to her sharp dialogue and insights into her characters, “it’s funny without being ridiculous, sweet without turning sentimental, even though it involves parenthood. Its raunchy sense of humor helps.” (Connie Oggle, Miami Herald). David Edelstein in New York Magazine says it’s what we’d get “If Ingmar Bergman Were Funny…the best breeder movie in years.”

You might wonder how things would have turned out if Julie and Jason’s baby were to be something other than a delightful bundle of joy. For a take on that question, check out WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Our much loved Tilda Swinton (the only living movie star featured in the Tropic lobby), suffers through a life of living hell because of her son Kevin, who seems to have been put on earth to plague her. There’s no romance, and certainly no comedy here.

Kevin is a psychopath. He knows how to act lovingly, so as to fool his father (John C. Reilly) into thinking his bad behavior is because “he’s just a boy.” But we know better, and so does his mother Eva. We know it from the outset, as we learn of a horrible crime, because the director takes us back and forth in a non-chronological path. But the center of the film is Eva, and her torments. How does a parent deal with the knowledge that she has brought evil into the world?

It’s “a masterful film” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), giving further proof that Ms. Swinton deserves that place of honor in the lobby. “The movie toggles between two periods---before and after a catastrophe---and, were it not for Swinton's magnetism, it would be unbearable. Instead, you'll want to stay for the wallop.” (Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York).

Three films are held over, the controversial, NC-17-rated, SHAME, starring Michael Fassbender; the Freud-Jung bio-story, A DANGEROUS METHOD; and the Iranian Best Foreign Film, A SEPARATION. The latter has established some kind of record at the Tropic, being the first subtitled movie to be the top grossing film of the week. Come and see why.

This Monday, April 2, also marks the start of a new Classic Film Series. The theme for April is Cult Colors, beginning with the old favorite, PINK FLAMINGOS, featuring former Key West habitué Devine in John Water’s first color movie, and the one that launched his career as the master of bad taste. The Purple Rose of Cairo, Grey Gardens, Blue Velvet, and Yellow Submarine round out the rainbow on successive Mondays.

Friends With Kids (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Friends with Kids

For those of you looking in suburban rental queues or backyards for a satisfying antidote to the tension in "We Need to Talk About Kevin", "Friends with Kids" is the ticket. This pleasing romantic comedy takes a bit of irreverence from "Friends with Benefits" and "Bridesmaids", given that Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph both co-star in the film, along with former Bridesmaids cad John Hamm. If you think "Friends with Kids" is full of references from its past Rom-Com siblings you would be right, (with the "couples who work together, stay together" message of Judd Apatow added for good measure) but rather than be annoying the film works and manages to appear novel. This is due to the honesty and verve of the acting and the authentic roles.

Jennifer Westfeldt directs and stars here and she has a sharpness for dialogue and a pacing that makes her a bit like a Woody Allen or a Nora Ephron for the cyberspace set.

Westfeldt plays Julie, a well meaning advisor with an off-kilter sense of humor. She recalls Winona Ryder of "Edward Scissorhands" with a dash of Jennifer Aniston. Julie's favorite icebreaker: "Which would you rather have? Aneurism or cancer?"
What a sweet talker.

Julie has a best friend: the honest, loping and self-deprecating Jason (Adam Scott). Julie and Jason spend every waking minute together, it seems, and go to parties in which everybody is married with kids. They date others with no satisfaction. They are restless.

Aha! It doesn't take a Rom-Com fan to figure out that they decide to take nature in their own hands and have a baby while still remaining friends.
Can they manage? Just watch.

Yes, there are the formulaic ups and downs and some expected misunderstandings, but the hook here are the fine performances.

Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and John Hamm are all excellent as frazzled and edgy husbands and wives who all want to keep up with the Status Quo and listen to their parents, until they wish they hadn't. Special mention should be given to character actor Chris O' Dowd as the passive and semi-offensive husband Alex. Like Woody Allen's sidekick Tony Roberts, O' Dowd's slacker image is the perfect foil to Adam Scott's Banana Republic good boy averageness.

Instead of worrying about New York, hypochondria and anti-semitism, today's romances focus on the novelty of casual encounters, economic pressures and the distractions of social media and smartphones. Although you might feel as if you are watching a bit of "Harry Met Sally" sponsored by IPhone, the laughs are bouncy and effervescent. The glib verbal repartee at the film's end makes what would normally be thought obscene into a poignant challenge.

The message of "Friends with Kids" is to let go, and you most definitely should, by rolling, or strolling to your seat.

Write Ian at

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

We Need to Talk About Kevin

The dark side of the brain is a tangible and serious thing that is all too hidden from most.

If we are lucky.

With this thought in my head, I rolled into The Peggy to see "We Need to Talk About Kevin" a film based on a novel by Lionel Shriver about a young sociopath (actually in kindergarten) who wreaks havoc on his family and holds them virtually in a state of unending mental anguish.

This is no supernatural "Omen" film. The demons here are all too human. And as in the novel of the same name, the film unfolds both impressionistically and expressionistically, giving us short, sharp bursts of narrative that roll behind the eyes like a carnal dream. The first thing that hits you is the color red: the red of tomato soup, raspberry jam or blood. Each red element is ubiquitous, eerie and mischievous.

Our heart goes out to the angular and spacey Eva, (played wonderfully by Tilda Swinton) who invariably looks like an astral mother Lost in Space who would like to be put in some other maternal orbit. During a grocery visit, Eva becomes indistinguishable behind a row of Campbell's soup: a sinister and sad parody of Andy Warhol himself. Eva can't reach her Kevin (Erza Miller) who does increasingly troublesome and painful things to those closest to him. Despite Eva's David Bowie looks, it is Kevin who is the real spaceman, and a violent one.

One furtive glance at Kevin as a toddler (Jasper Newell) and his dark scowl is a glance that is not easy to take. He is so unreachable and his pandemonium so vexing that we realize we are not in the realm of the supernatural but the suburban.

Swinton does one better than Mia Farrow. Rather than become an operatic victim of demonic intent, Eva is part Sherlock Holmes and part Franz Kafka. She constantly cleans and brushes her vandalized home and masochistically takes a dead-end job at an unpopular travel agency. Yet just when you think she is down, Eva's memory goes down another associative abyss, sometimes hellish, sometimes hopeful, but always daunting.

The film contains some of the most scary 'Trick or Treat' imagery that I've ever seen, all the more frightful because the real shocks have nothing to do with costumed frights but with losing a maternal footing in life along with your connection and purpose.

The film is a jolting Rorschach of colors symbols and episodes that all add up to a sincere and earnest Mother wishing to stop things, wanting to understand and hoping to rid herself of her malevolent son.

If "We Need to Talk about Kevin" has a weak spot, it is in the character of the father played ably enough by John C. Reilly. The father is simply There to play off Eva's worry and there isn't much for him to do. He supports Kevin's terrible virulence and even his growing eagerness to shoot with such clueless regularity that it (almost) misses the mark. Reilly's obsequious father could be played by nearly anyone.

I was also thinking that the last scenes were not all that necessary. How often have we seen disturbed young men both on film (and sadly in life), grandiose and unapologetic in their actions?

But I won't spoil it.

The most lasting and heartfelt circumstance in the film is that it's really not about Kevin, but rather his mom, and the mysterious movements that Tilda Swinton creates in this role. If you need one reason to see "We Need to Talk About Kevin", she is it. Swinton is the definition of inner space, mystery and motherhood, par excellence.

Write Ian at

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Rhoades)

“We Need to Talk
About Kevin” Does

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

When you walk into the lobby of the Tropic Cinema, one of the first things you see, over there on the left, near the entrance to the Peggy Dow auditorium, is a large, spectacular black-and-white photograph of actress Tilda Swinton. It’s on loan from patron Jean Carper, who has entertained Tilda as her Key West houseguest more than once.
This week Tilda Swinton’s image also will be on a movie poster outside, for her new film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is playing at the Tropic.
Here is a story about a kid named Kevin who commits a school massacre. Think: Columbine or Westside Middle School or Virginia Tech.
But it’s seen from his mother’s point of view as she tries to come to terms with what her son has done.
Tilda Swinton stars as Eva, a once-successful travel writer who now works in a travel agency in a mall near the prison where her son is incarcerated. Ezra Miller is cast as the eponymous, darkly off-the-rails Kevin. And John C. Reilly takes on the role of Franklin Katchadourian, the dad who has refused to acknowledge his son’s problems.
Unlike those mothers who are anchored to their children by love and affection, Eva is quietly enraged by her son actions. This monstrous offspring is out to destroy everything around him.
As Tilda explains, “The movie explored a taboo subject: the idea of a less than perfect mother. I knew that, when an audience watched the film, there would be a gag reflex at some point. But I was fascinated by the subject – it scared me, and that interested me.”
Tilda herself is the mother of 13-year-old twins. “When I had my children, my manager asked me what project I wanted to work on next. I said, “Something Greek, perhaps ‘Medea.’” Nobody quite understood what I meant.”
 “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is based on a 2003 book by Lionel Shriver. But when the producers were trying to finance the film, they would reference “Rosemary’s Baby.” “It’s every pregnant woman’s nightmare to give birth to the devil,” explains Tilda. “And every mother worries that she won’t connect to her children.”
Here, the mother is revolted because she sees herself in her son. “In ‘Kevin,’ the woman I play is in mourning for her past life, and yet she looks at this dark, nihilistic kid and knows exactly where he comes from,” says the London-born actress.
Oddly enough, she describes the film as a “love story.” “They understand each other. He doesn’t kill her, and in one version of the movie, she asks him, ‘Why didn’t you shoot me, too?’ He says, ‘If you’re putting on a show, you don’t shoot the audience.’”
The audience at the Tropic will fare safely too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Week of March 23 to March 30 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

You’ve probably heard about SHAME because of its NC-17 rating, or because of the nudity that earned it that rating. But really folks, the title is not “Hung”, but rather the theme of a Shakespeare sonnet:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action…..
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

  To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a sex addict. Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his sister who comes to live with him in his sterile Manhattan apartment, is sloppy, needy and self-destructive. These are not characters from Friends. The film is “first and foremost a visual and sonic symphony, and a Dante-esque journey through a New York nightworld where words are mostly useless or worse…. it’s riveting, spectacular, passionate cinema.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

Fassbender is also currently on the Tropic screen as Carl Jung in A DANGEROUS METHOD, where he also has a problem with lust. But don’t type-cast him. He’s been a member of Brad Pitt’s Nazi hit gang in Inglourious Basterds, and Magneto in X-Men, after igniting his career as IRA zealot and hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger. The versatility of actors never ceases to amaze. I first noticed Carey Mulligan as a sweet young thing in An Education. When it was rumored that she might be cast as the the Dragon Tattoo girl, I thought, “no way.” Now I know I would have been wrong. In Shame she shows she’s got the range to handle a film that is “a complex, challenging, emotionally devastating drama.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A SEPARATION is one of the most acclaimed films of the year. Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, and many think, deserving of best movie overall. Simin and Nader, a Persian couple, struggle with conflicting priorities. The wife wants to get out of Iran to get a better life for their daughter. The husband feels compelled to stay to care for his Alzheimer’s -afflicted father. The family story builds, with a divorce suit, and a caretaker for the father, who has her own issues. It all takes place in Tehran, but it strikes much closer to home than the New York-based Shame. We can look at the Fassbender character and say, “Not me,” but Simin and Nader could be any of us.
“The movie has such a profound and compassionate understanding of human behavior, family ties and the way ordinary people respond when they’re forced into a moral quandary, I can’t imagine anyone not being transfixed by it.” (Rene Rodriquez, Miami Herald)

The ballet tour de force PINA (in 3D) is held over. For an extra treat, Tuesday evening will feature a brief performance from talented members of The Key West Contemporary Dance Company before the 8:30pm show.

Also held over are A DANGEROUS METHOD - the historical drama of the Freud – Jung conflict in the early days of psychoanalysis , and ALBERT NOBBS - the Glenn Close-Janet McTeer portrayal of two women passing as men in Edwardian-era Dublin.

Get your ration of culture on Thursday with the ballet ROMEO AND JULIET from the Royal Ballet in London. Live via satellite at 3:30pm EDT, with an encore at 7:30pm.

And keep going Wild About Wilder on Monday night with the Norma Desmond classic, SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), starring Gloria Swanson as the fading actress and William Holden as her kept younger man.

Full schedules and info at or

Shame (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Shame" the highly anticipated work by edgy director Steve McQueen has arrived at The Tropic. The film concerns the enigmatic and mysterious subject of sex addiction. It is controversial because it is direct. It does not glaze over, embellish or hold back details. But although the subject is somewhat lurid and unseemly, those stricken with the condition are far from monsters. By far, " Shame" is the most realistic film that I've seen depicting the paranoia of sex since "Looking for Mr Goodbar".

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a handsome exec that works in a skyscraper in New York City. From morning till night he is surrounded by hard right angles and geometry: a wall, a door, the bed, a laptop screen. Each interior object is a rectangle of habit and it is often hard to tell if Brandon is sitting up or lying down. Frequently as walls obstruct his body, he is seen in a horizontal position. Brandon lives in a stark, dimmed world. His apartment is an off-gray. In both character and setting, given all its minimalism, the film is reminiscent of "American Psycho" without the black humor.

Although Brandon is handsome, well-off and parties on the weekends, he is cut off. The hourglass shape of a woman's body both daunts and actually haunts him. He prefers solitude. In the company of friends and their hyper, automatic laughter, Brandon is far off in some highly concentrated sexual innerspace that is anything but festive. Brandon spends much of his day with Internet porn.

Carey Mulligan plays Sissy, Brandon's drifter sister. Sissie's dysfunction is ambiguous and hazy, perhaps drugs or an emotional dependance. Brandon tries to open up to his sister and share his domesticity, but because of the spaced out, very real mania that he has, living is touch and go---literally.

The film illustrates a completely sexualized world where Brandon has no way out. Every hotel window in New York becomes a sexual Advent calendar during a lascivious holiday. Any satisfaction that Brandon can hope to seek comes from the shallow buttercreme-textured realms of porn and going out with prostitutes. The city itself seems to have multiple eyes and unseemly tentacles. Sex is no fun in this film. When Brandon is ensnared, he winces in pain: a chiseled, wrenching look of unending torment that recalls a Grunewald Crucifixion---a Passion in flesh.

Even though the sexual realm is seen as viral and ravenous, this is no Cronenberg or Roman Polanski horror film. The sex scenes are naturalistic and plain with no sense of sentimental syrup or malevolence. The three scenes simply show us that sex is primal and central to us, having the power to expose either our intimacies or deliver our dysfunctions. It is a rare thing to see a film about sexual dysfunction that doesn't treat sex itself in an unreal manner but we see it here. Brandon's beautiful co-worker and brief date, Marianne (Nicole Beharie) has the potential to be a life-saver, or perhaps saviour, but she quickly flees from his possession.

"Shame" is believable because Brandon appears so normal at first glance. He is an Everyman becoming robotic by his double life, but no zombie.

Brandon could be any one of us.

Ian at

A Separation (Rhoades)

“A Separation”
Onscreen and Off

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

These days the U.S. may be making war-like noises toward Iran, but we picked an Iranian movie as the Best Foreign Language Film in the recent 84th Academy Awards. That isolationist country does not seem to share the joy of moviegoers, for Iranian authorities canceled a ceremony to honor the movie’s director, Asghar Farhadi.
“We intended to have a simple and friendly meeting to say ‘thank you’ for the great achievement you brought Iran and Iranian cinema but the cultural custodians did not let us realize this. We deeply regret this,” said a statement from the Center for Directors of Iranian Cinema and the High Council of Producers of Iranian Cinema to the director.
Nonetheless – trying to have it both ways – the Iranian government trumpeted the film’s win over a competitor from Israel, “Footnote.”
 Iranian conservatives were upset with “A Separation,” particularly its themes of domestic turmoil, gender inequality, and the desire by many to leave the country.
While public gatherings in Iran require a permit, you can safely gather at the Tropic Cinema to watch this Oscar-winning film.
“A Separation” tells of Nader and Simin, a couple who part ways after 14 years of marriage. The couple’s conflict stems from Simin (played by Leila Hatami) wanting to leave with country because she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up under the oppressive regime. But Nader (played by Peyman Moaadi) opposes the move because he wants to stay and care for his Alzheimer-inflicted father.
When the court rejects Simin’s request for a divorce, she moves in with her parents, forcing Nader to hire a caretaker (Sareh Bayat) for his father. This doesn’t work out, so Nader fires her. In the process the woman falls on the steps and suffers a miscarriage. As a result Nader may be accused of murder, but there are circumstances about the miscarriage that are not clear. Narratively complex, the film challenges the morality of all the characters as the story unfolds.
“A Separation” almost didn’t get made. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had banned Asghar Farhadi from making the film after he expressed support for exiled filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaaf. However, the ban was lifted when Farhadi apologized and backed down from his statements.
And now – despite its Academy Award, Golden Bear Award, César Award, Golden Arena Award, Independent Film Spirit Award, and Golden Globe, among many others – the film doesn’t seem to be getting proper recognition in its own country.
No, Iran is not comfortable with its filmmakers. Last year, director Jafar Panahi was sentenced to a six-year house arrest and a 20-year ban on filmmaking after being convicted of “making propaganda” against Iran’s ruling system. And only a few months ago the House of Cinema, an independent film group that included Farhadi among its members, was closed down.
Iran and its filmmakers seem to be experiencing what you might describe as a separation.

Shame (Rhoades)

“Shame” Says
Shame On
Sexual Addiction

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

If it’s a woman Rush Limbaugh calls her a slut, but a man with the same proclivities is said to suffer from sexual addiction.
“Shame” – the new Steve McQueen drama at the Tropic – explores this so-called affliction. Is it a thoughtful study or voyeurism?
Maybe both. I remember my college psychology professor saying movie censors were often men who like to watch dirty movies. Did that influence my becoming a film critic, so I could watch movies like “Shame” without shame?
In it, a thirtysomething New York exec named Brandon cannot get enough sex. He lusts after a married woman on a subway train. He picks up strange women at clubs. He beds a coworker. He gets beat up by the boyfriend of a woman he tries to pick up. He receives fellatio at a gay bar. He goes for a three-way in a cheap hotel.
A regular satyr.
Yeah, yeah, we can make those envious jokes, like smart remarks about those ads that warn to see a doctor if an erection last more than four hours.
But it’s really a sad story.
Brandon’s boss is nearly as far-gone, but Brandon manages to have sex with a woman David was trying to bag. Turnabout, David beds Brandon’s baby sister.
Sissy is a pain in Brandon’s, uh, backside. Cramping his style. Nearly as screwed up as him. Damaged from their unhappy childhood. Suicidal.
In the end Brandon is sexually burned out, practically ignoring the married woman on the subway train. Or is he?
Director Steve McQueen (no, he’s not related to the long-dead actor of the same name) made a great feature film debut in 2008 with “Hunger” (no, not “The Hunger Games”) about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It starred Michael Fassbender as the IRA volunteer who led the strike.
For this film, McQueen again taps Fassbender (“A Dangerous Method”) to play our horndog. And Carrie Mulligan (“An Education”) plays the little sister.
McQueen is maturing as a director (yes, this movie should be rated “For Mature Audiences”), having started off as an avant-garde artist whose early film work was influenced by Andy Warhol.
McQueen says “Shame” is not just about sexual addictions. “It’s about addictions, in general, and being in a world where we don’t necessarily have self-will.”
Fassbender agrees. “We’re all fragile, in our own way, and we’re all trying to find our way. What I got from it was that great humanity that makes each of these people think they need somebody to help them. I thought that was quite moving.”
Why did Michael Fassbender choose to do such an explicit film? “It’s very simple for me. I keep things very simple. There’s this idea of, ‘Oh, my god, and then you’re naked. What’s that going to do for your career?’ My job is to facilitate characters. I’m a storyteller, and that’s one facet of telling that story. End of story.”
As for Steve McQueen, he claims he did the movie because “I wanted to see Michael naked.”
Hmm, maybe my old college professor was right.

A Separation (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Separation

"A Separation" is the Academy Award winning film in this year's foreign film category. It tells a story of overwhelming stubbornness, betrayal secrecy, and religion under social pressures, raising the question of whether or not to do what is humanly moral or to remain petty in the face of Ego. The narrative is half "Kramer vs. Kramer" and half French tragedy in the tradition of "Jean de Florette" and its sequel "Manon of the Spring". Despite these influences however, "A Separation" is uniquely its own with traces of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" under its invasive cry of a muezzin's call to prayer.

An Iranian couple Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) want a divorce. Simin wants to move to find a better life for their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). The husband refuses citing the responsibility of taking care of his bedridden father. The reality: the two parents can't stand each other. What follows is a battle of wills, how far can selfishness go? And what part does a fundamentalist religion play, if any, in serving, or reigning in our egotistical urges?

The court rules that there is no valid evidence for the divorce. Simin moves out. Nader hires a lady, Razieh (Sarieh Bayat) who is deeply conservative. Razieh quickly becomes overworked and loses track of the bedridden father who has Alzheimer's. She tries to rescue him and does, but Nader goes into a rage at finding his father tied to the bed with money missing. This sets off a chain reaction of moral catastrophes that are heart-squashing and electrically intense with an abundance of cultural voltage. Nader, who at first glance seems measured and delicate, becomes increasingly self absorbed and maniacal as the film progresses. There is no humility in him. Deep within his masculinity, Nader cannot admit he is wrong.

Although the two parents are an upper middle class couple, the guilt of Razieh's poverty casts a shadow over everything along with her talk of martyrs and the Qu'ran. Her religion is iron-clad pitted against Nader's self-assuredness. Both are self righteous. This is how family feuds are started and sometimes never finished without blood.

Nader and Simin are literally sequestered in a hall of doors without end. They spend lots of time opening and closing them. There are just as many problems as there are doors in the film. Numerous people ceaselessly rush about the house, either potential allies or witnesses against Nader. Even Razieh's little daughter shoots baleful looks at the family. In one scene, the girl plays with the invalid father's oxygen tank, as if playing with a fly. Children are not innocent here, only spontaneous.

This film has no heroes and there are no solutions. "A Separation" is a true arabesque of anxiety and horribly, it falls to Termeh to give the last word.

Write Ian at

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week of March 16 to 22 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

There’s a digital divide in the release of 3D films. The inspiration for the revival of this medium was of course James Cameron’s Avatar, an exemplar of big-budget, over-the-top special effects driven filmmaking. And most of the movies that have followed out of Hollywood have continued down that path, while independent filmmakers have remained in the two-dimensional world.

One reason is cost. The 3D equipment is more expensive and more complex to operate, presenting a challenge to those with tight budgets. But there’s also the fact that 3D seems less useful for the story and human-character driven cinema in which independents specialize.

Two German well-known filmmakers are an exception. Werner Herzog offered us Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the 3D documentary filming of a prehistoric cave in France that contained possibly the oldest known examples of human art. Everyone associated 3D with dynamic movement, with people and things flying to and fro. Herzog was filming cave paintings, the most static images one can imagine.  But because access to the cave was very restricted, normally open only to scientists, there was a possibility that he might be the only filmmaker ever to bring in cameras. I suppose he felt obligated to capture the very best images for posterity. The result was extraordinary.

Now we have PINA, from Wim Wenders. He’s best known to us for his Oscar-nominated documentary that captured not only the music but the spirit of Cuban jazz/salsa, Buena Vista Social Club. With Pina he does the same for ballet with a 3D tribute to Pina Bausch, a legendary German choreographer who died in 2009. The extra dimension enables Wenders to put us in the actual space of the performers, rather than  in the position of the audience looking in. We become part of the dance.

“Wenders has woven a gorgeous, hypnotic tapestry of sound and vision. You don’t have to know the first thing about modern dance to be transported to an alternate state of consciousness by Pina.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

So 3D has found another home in the world of visually-oriented documentary. We’re still waiting for someone to find a use for it in character-driven narrative film. Even Hollywood does not seem interested. Maybe for good reason.

I can’t imagine, for example, how A DANGEROUS METHOD would have benefitted giving us visual depth perception. The title subject is psychoanalysis, as practiced by its originator, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his disciple Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, fully dressed). It’s based on an actual case, the treatment and mistreatment of a female patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). She is an aspiring analyst herself, as brilliant as the two male doctors, but a very difficult patient.

David Cronenberg, the director of Eastern Promises and The Fly, explores the sexual tensions between analyst and analysand, and the conflict between the two men who stood at this new gateway to understanding the mind. A Dangerous Method is “something of an adventure story. It also at times has the quiet, uncanny mood of a horror movie, albeit one whose monsters are invisible, living inside the souls they menace.” (A.O. Scott, New York Times)

The monsters in KILL LIST, on the other hand, are very visible. They’re Jay and Gal, two hit men doing their last jobs together. Sometimes I think that “one last job” is the gangster movie equivalent of boy meets girl, it’s been done so often. But maybe because it’s so dramatically rich. We’re instinctively rooting for the bad guy because we think he’s going to become good. We want him to succeed so he can move on. And Jay is a family man who’s trying to earn a few bucks. But Kill List confronts us with some pretty awful stuff, as the guys seem to want to get it all out of their systems. It’s “brutal and bloody and utterly unnerving.” (Chuck Wilson, Village Voice) “Kill List is all hairpin turns, opening like a standard B noir featuring two grumbly hit men. But … swerves into the most sordid vigilante territory before tumbling down a hole into the realm of … Huh?” (David Edelstein, New York Magazine)

Lots more, including an encore of the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW in its full glory. Check or for full schedules and information.

Pina (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


German art-filmmaker Wim Wenders' new film "Pina" is a 3-D tribute to the late German dance choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a colorful and hypnotic collage seamlessly blended together like a multimedia tapestry from the Internet. By using images of Pina herself in talk and in motion, what forms in front of us is nothing less than a prismatic kimono of information that enfolds us in a Taoist riddle. 

This is not to say that the film is highbrow at all. "Pina" is a half surreal, half Pop haiku of juxtaposed set-pieces  that  assimilate like clusters of bright marbles on a Chinese checkerboard with all its triangles pointing to the marvel that is Pina Bausch. In life, she was an intent birdlike woman, all arms and eyes. Bausch is portrayed as part benevolent dictator and part aloof Pop superstar. She appears on film like a squatting bird of great power, perpetually chain smoking and overseeing everything, even with closed eyes. Pina is the Matriarch and her wing span arcs  over the entire film. 

In life, Pina worked perpetually pitting the human body against the great elements  in nature, specifically soil, water and enormous boulders,  either in abundant extremes or existential sparseness. She was also known for speaking about the battleground of human intimacy and the hostilities of domestic dysfunction, of what can pull us together and break us apart. Her most notable piece "Cafe Muller" focuses on a man and woman forcibly entwined  in an Orwellian black and gray cafe as all the tables and chairs implode and scatter around them. 

Rather than upstage Pina, Wenders gives each dancer in the Tanztheater dance company the chance to offer his/ her own interpretation to Pina's memory. These sequences are pulsing and unusual, set in odd locations. One takes place in a huge factory with a dancer endlessly twirling about. Her pink satin shoes are crammed with slices of veal. In another, an elfin man with cardboard ears who looks like a cuckold, sits in spacey rapture on a streetcar as a big-bottomed Amazon noisily squashes everything in her wake.  In another, a young valentine falls repeatedly to the ground. When her lover lifts her up, he is clearly burdened. Shot in 3-D, these scenes seem infinite, feverish and ultra-miniaturized, a pop-up book point of view that suggests  we all lead our own individual Lilliputian struggles. 

One dancer moves in lugubrious motion with a rhinoceros that supposedly symbolizes Pina and her omnipotence. No matter how unflattering this is, it rapidly becomes clear that Pina was a friend as well as the enigmatic mistress of her own dance company. Her sudden death from cancer in 2009, leaves her company with a mystery that inspires and propels action. 

As Wenders films each dancer in close up before each segment, they say nothing and merely look into the camera. A comparison to Andy Warhol's factory "screen-tests" is unavoidable. Once again, a face tells of everything. 

You need not be familiar with Pina Bausch to enjoy the film. It is best to let go and just watch, swept up in its oddly haunting imagery. You might think of the experimental films of the 1960s or the sexually functioning installations of Matthew Barney, but Pina Bausch will still appear underneath all the Dadaist tapping: a heron of Herzogian concentration--- restlessly searching, relentlessly reaching.

Write Ian at

A Dangerous Method (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Dangerous Method

Director David Cronenberg, the Canadian instigator of surrealist cinema, strikes again with "A Dangerous Method", based on the sexual relationship between Carl Jung and a young patient Sabina Speilrein who overcame her own neurotic demons to become a famous psychoanalyst. Cronenberg's oeuvre is invariably clinical and spaced out, having previously tackled such material as William Burroughs' Naked Lunch and the Dalinian science fiction writer J.G. Ballard. Cronenberg has skillfully and correctly made the connection between psychoanalysis and Surrealism, where our most primeval dreams and fantasies are spoken of, visualized in paintings and set free.   

In this film,Victorian society is rightly shown as oppressive. Beneath the uniform, right-angled cleanliness of a 1890s Zurich  something beastly and hiddden lurks. A feral ingenue Sabina Speilrein (Kiera Knightley) is brought to Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) for treatment. Speilrein is wonderfully played by Knightley, who appears sometimes as a soiled semi-blasphemous Banshee only to transform into an astute and seductive analytic scholar. Her metamorphosis is nothing short of alchemy. Fassbender for his part, is stuffy and tight. His seamless black waistcoat is painted on his skin while his silver wire spectacles are riveted to his face as immovable as a pair of handcuffs. Jung seems made of cement. But just wait...droplets of temptation will make him a puppet on a string. Jung's glasses get steamed.

The fun is in waiting for it to happen.

Cronenberg in keeping with the film's period and subject, submerges all dramatic force under the surface. The film works more on a symbolic and visual level. One look at the famous Orientalist orange sofa under a sepia-gray sky, further encircled by a maze of  geometric buildings is all the trigger that you'll need to know that this film is about the release of a colorless repression that was the Victorian Age.

Jung himself sits down each day to breakfast as his wife Emma, sits across from him. She is as white as porcelain and as sterile. When Jung sees his red sailboat with sails that are amber-red like an occult womb, he is sent adrift.

Viggo Mortensen as Saint Sigmund is wrapped in a cloud of cigar smoke. He is as cold and frigid as a glacier. Not even the fire of cocaine can ignite him. Freud remains an impenetrable patriarch as passive as his conception of God.

Ultimately it is Sabina Speilrein who is the ground breaker.  A psychoanalytic Alice in Wonderland,  Speilrein alone uncovered new methods to what was repressed madness under starched white collars.

The color white is used frequently in this film, symbolizing the blanching  of our dirty impish Ids that lie beneath us all.

"A Dangerous Method" is a fine character study detailing Jung, Freud and  Speilrein: three mental Merlins of our age. It is a welcome addition to the Cronenberg canon and a must-see for any Jungian cinephile.  

Write Ian at

A Dangerous Method (Rhoades)

“A Dangerous Method” Is
More Jungian Than Freudian

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sigmund Freud came up with what he called the Talking Cure. His protégé Carl Jung bought into this dangerous method, but eventually broke off to explore the collective unconscious, telepathy, and areas of the mind that Freud termed mysticism.
But according to “A Dangerous Method” – the interesting film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – the schism was mostly over a woman, a patient that Jung took as his mistress.
The storyline is historically accurate, a screenplay by Christopher Hampton based on his stage play “The Talking Cure,” which was based on John Kerr’s book called “A Most Dangerous Method,” which was largely based on actual letters between Jung and his estranged mentor.
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung remain cornerstones in the field of psychoanalysis. And Sabina Spielrein was at first Jung’s hysterical pain-driven patient, later his mistress, then Freud’s pupil, and finally a respected psychoanalyst in her own right – as implausible as that might seem. But as Jung tells her, a doctor must suffer illnesses in order to be able to cure.
Director David Cronenberg used to be known for his splashy Canadian horror flicks (remember those exploding heads in “Scanners” and the murderous mutant children in “The Brood”?), but he has shown his true mettle in recent years with such films as “Crash” (winner of the Cannes Jury Special Prize), “Naked Lunch” (winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award), “Dead Ringers” (winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Director), “A History of Violence” (winner of the Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Director), and “Eastern Promises (winner of the Directors Guide of Canada’s Craft Award for Best Direction).
However, “A Dangerous Method” is a far subtler film than Cronenberg’s usual milieu. About the infamous Talking Cure, this is a talky movie.
The focus here is on Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who pioneered analytical psychology (sometimes called Jungian psychology). Hot British actor Michael Fassbender portrays Jung as a repressed man, ambitious for fame, competitive with his father figure Freud, but weak of flesh.
Twisting and twitching, Keira Knightley eschews her usual delicate beauty to unveil a character’s torturous psyche. Mad, vengeful, yet ultimately wise.
Practically unrecognizable behind goatee and cigar (“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”) we find Viggo Mortensen. He’s downright placid as Sigmund Freud, a far cry from his previous bare-knuckle-action roles for Cronenberg in “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises.”
Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”) is cast as a hedonistic – and crazed – shrink who comes under Jung’s cure, only to convince the good doctor that monogamy is a useless concept. Sarah Gadon (“Dream House”) plays Emma, Jung’s rich wife who had rather not know about her husband’s affairs.
A sad movie despite its truth. Carl Jung, a victim of his baser self. Sigmund Freud, an iconoclast being pushed aside by a younger upstart. Sabina Spielrein, a reckless woman ruining careers for her own driven desires. Emma, Jung, a wife enduring her husband’s lifelong cuckoldry.
No winners here.
Unless it’s the audience. And those innumerable patients of the Talking Cure.

Kill List (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Kill List

"Kill List" , the new film by  British animator Ben Wheatley is less of a horror film than a pastiche from other genuinely frightful pictures, specifically the original "The Wicker Man" (1973) and "The Blair Witch Project" in its overexposed cinematography.

In this film, the obstacle to genuine creepy thrills is that the characters of Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley--yes that's his name ) are almost completely without any interest or heart of any kind. Jay is a humdrum sad sack who mumbles and complains of phantom back injuries. He is unemployed and unemployable, one guesses, probably because he is so utterly miserable. During the first fifteen minutes of the film, Jay is drunk  and abusive to those around him. This fact is further compounded by the fact that it is quite hard to understand the dialogue throughout the film. I found myself wishing for subtitles. 

Gal for his part is an exceptionally slimy individual. He actually seems dipped in oil. He sweats constantly. Gal is more Ratso than Dustin Hoffman in "Midnight Cowboy".  Gal is the most interesting of the two derelicts for his more soft spoken gallows humor but that is not saying much. I couldn't understand his dialogue either. What little humor "Kill List" does have, is contained in the moments with Gal and Jay together. They are best friends, apparently. One minute they hug each other and then they beat each other senseless over the most absurdist reasons. 

This is the film's saving grace, not that it is enough.

Jay and Gal are sociopaths. They are ex soldiers and want to make money again. They get mixed up in some sort of nameless mafia first and then some nameless cultists take over involving people that are difficult to look at and even more difficult to actually see.

This would be okay for a dark "Layer Cake" kind of film, but Jay is so faceless and cold that he has no dramatic nectar in his character. There is nothing to get excited about, be it in praise or negativity.

Jay and Gal go after other undesirables. There is a lascivious priest (original!) and a pornographer that become hideously hacked up, I think gratuitously so. This is not upsetting to me so much as disgusting to look at. Violence for violence sake serves no purpose. Jay is made up of rage and just becomes a terrible bore. Why is he even married? 

At the film's beginning there was a smidgen of apprehension ala "Rosemary's Baby" when Jay's guests arrive for dinner. The suspense was in the guessing of how creepy these people are going to be. After the first twenty minutes though, the initial anxieties are already dispelled.
Too much Magick is revealed at once. Ben, Ben, Try again! There are no numinous nuances at beginning or end!

Edward Woodward was so much more entertaining.

Write Ian at

Kill List (Rhoades)

“Kill List” Didn’t
Quite Make the List

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Normally, film critics don’t compare notes, wanting to maintain an independent and uninfluenced viewpoint. But I will make an exception for “Kill List,” the crime-horror thriller playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Turns out, Ian Brockway and I were at the same screening. Ian is a regular contributor to the Tropic blog, as am I. When I entered the Tropic’s George auditorium, Ian was already there, his motorized chair parked in the back row. Between us, we cover movies from front row to back, it seems.
“Kill List” is a film by Ben Wheatley, the British director who gave us “Down Terrace,” another crime story. His background is Internet viral ads and TV comedy shows.
There wasn’t much to laugh at in “Kill List.” This grim and gritty gangster picture starts out as a portrait of a family on the edge, husband and wife going at it, child caught in the middle. Seems dad hasn’t worked in months and cash is in short supply.
Then the film unfolds as a crime story. Jay (Neil Maskell) and his pal Gal (Michael Smiley) are former military men who have found their calling as hitmen. The reason Jay hasn’t worked is due to a botched job in Kiev. But laid-back Gal urges him to join him for one more assignment.
Jay’s pretty blonde wife Shel (MyAnna Buring) kisses her hubby goodbye as he goes off to work, just another day of killing people on a list given them by a gaunt and mysterious employer who treats Jay like a blood brother.
Meanwhile Gal’s erstwhile girlfriend keeps turning up like a specter, hinting that she’s more than a human resources clerk.
As Jay and Gal go about their work, bodies pile up with increasing violence – a priest, a librarian, the final target being a Minister of Parliament. Gal is concerned about his partner’s vicious kills, about his reckless behavior, about his family life, about their friendship.
At the MP’s country place, the two hitmen encounter a pagan ceremony, throngs wearing straw masks, carrying torches, many nude. Engaging the revelers with gunfire, they are forced to run for their lives against this zombie-like hoard.
That’s when you realize this is more a horror flick than a crime story. It gets bloody, gory, and scary as unstoppable Druid killers chase the professional killers.
It doesn’t end well.
As we departed the theater, Ian and I compared notes. “The Wicker Man,” I said. He nodded, referencing the 1973 British horror film about a policeman lured to a remote Hebridean island where he becomes the prey of Sun God worshippers. It was remade in 2006 starring Nicolas Cage.
We mentioned Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” the 1999 film in which Tom Cruise stumbles into masked orgy, surrounded by naked beauties and robed priests, running afoul of a secret cult.
And then we touched on “In Bruges,” a film about two hitmen cooling it off after a failed job.
That’s the way film critics talk, in cinematic references.
In the end, we agreed we like the original “Wicker Man” better. As the Tropic’s Matthew Helmerich teased later, “That’s because it had Britt Ekland nude in it.”
Yes, but what’s your point?
I’d ask the same of Ben Wheatley.

Pina (Rhoades)

“Pina” Dances
In 3-D

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My friend Michael Shields is a two-dimensional guy – he eschews 3-D films. He sees them as gimmicky. He finds the glasses distracting. While he enjoys cutting edge and esoteric films, he prefers to watch them the old fashioned way, just using his eyeballs.
Michael knows technology is a genie that can’t be stuffed back inside the urn, but that doesn’t mean he likes it. Sometimes I co-host the Film on Friday radio show with Michael, and following one discussion about an upcoming 3-D movie, he allowed that this medium might work for a dance film. After all, choreography is about spatial relationships.
Well, I’ve finally found a 3-D film I think he’ll like – “Pina,” currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
First of all, it’s a dance film. Moreover, it’s a documentary by Wim Wenders about the choreography of the late Pina Bausch.
Yes, Michael likes documentaries. He admires the films of Germanic director Wim Wenders. He talked about “Black Swan” for weeks. And he even consulted with Joyce Stahl on her productions of “The Nutcracker,” adapted especially for Key West audiences.
As a film director, Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders has given us such minor masterpieces as “Buena Vista Social Club,” “An American Friend,” “Wings of Desire,” and “Paris, Texas.” He also produced music videos for such groups as U2 and Talking Heads.
Side note: When I published Family Computing for Scholastic, I used to have David Bryne of Talking Heads stop by the office and review music software for the magazine. And I particularly liked “Sax and Violins,” the Talking Heads song that appears on the soundtrack of Wim Wenders’s “Until the End of the World.”
In addition, Wenders has been a film critic, playwright, photographer, and member of the advisory board of the World Cinema Foundation (a project founded by Martin Scorsese). He’s also been president of the European Film Academy.
Wenders was close friends with Pina Bausch, and the two were collaborating on a dance film when Pina passed away. Wenders halted production, until the dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal convinced him to finish the film as an honor to their dance mistress.
The documentary allows the troupe talk about Pina Bausch, but more importantly it lets them perform her contemporary dances – inside the Tanztheater Wuppertal and in scenic locations around the city of Wuppertal.
The extracts are from four well-known pieces: “Le Sacre du Printemps,” “Café Müller,” “Kontakthof,” and “Vollmond.”
The film was nominated as Best Documentary at the recent 84th Academy Awards, but lost out to “Undefeated.”
Wim Wenders is sold on 3-D. He says he’ll be working only in that format from now on. In fact, he has already started filming a new 3-D documentary about architecture.
Hmm, architecture is all about spatial relationships too. Bet Michael Shields will like that. I’ll convert him to 3-D yet.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Week of March 9 to March 15 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Wow! There are ten different films showing this week. No, they haven’t added more screens, just more choices. You’ll have to watch the schedule closely.

The big boy is ALBERT NOBBS, the triple-Oscar-nominated (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Makeup) story of women passing as men in Edwardian-era Dublin. Although it’s cross-dressing, this is as far from the tone of 901 Duval drag as you can get. Albert (Glenn Close) and Hubert (Janet McTeer) are straight-up gents, choosing their roles to avoid job discrimination rather than to make a gender-bending statement. Ms. Close first played this role in an off-Broadway adaptation of an Irish short story, and has been trying to get it made into a movie ever since.

You can see why. It’s a stunning performance, topped only by an even more stunning one by McTeer. The story itself, and the film, is “spare, quiet and surprisingly moving” (Washington Post). It’s a period and a place when restraint and understatement are the currency of the workplace, and Albert is deeply committed to it. The movie is about the nature of a life lived as a lie, and what it does to one, something we all need to contemplate, at least a little.

Also new this week is DECLARATION OF WAR, the French submission for this year’s Foreign Language award. No it’s not a war picture, but a family drama about a couple named Roméo and Juliette, who take on the challenge of a seriously ill-child with panache. No, of course not “Oh, happy day, my child is sick,” but the exact opposite of a woe-is-me whine.  Based on the actual experience of the lead actors (Valérie Donzelli, who also directed, and Jérémie Elkaïm) they’ve turned the movie into “a dazzlingly strange docudrama with musical numbers, choreographed interludes and prodigious cinematic verve.” (Andrew O’Hehir, It’s enough of an upper rather than downer that it has become a smash hit in France and earned the Pick of the Week from


Okay, that’s five movies accounted for, but where are the other five? They are mainly in The George, the Tropic’s own little alternative cinema with something for everyone.

You want a documentary? See
ADDICTION INCORPORATED, the story of the whistle-blower who turned around the national dialogue about smoking.
You’re a balletomane? Catch LE CORSAIR, live from the Bolshoi via satellite at 11:00AM on Sunday (8PM in Moscow), or in a rebroadcast at 7:00PM EST. This ballet is a great romantic drama of a beautiful slave girl and a dashing buccaneer, with a Titanic-like ending.
Or are you an opera aficionado? Tuesday brings us LA BOHEME from Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, also live via satellite, at 3:00PM (9PM in Spain), with a rebroadcast at 7:00PM EST.
Classic movies your thing? How about Billy Wilder’s STALAG 17 on Monday night. More proof that the March theme “Wild About Wilder” is well-deserved. Great comedy, and high drama in the unlikely setting of a German P.O.W. camp. All the more striking when you realize it was released in 1953, only eight years after the war ended.
Oh, fishing is more your thing than this culture-corner stuff? Come on Sunday evening for the latest version of the FLY FISHING FILM TOUR at 7:30PM in the Carper Theater. Another collection of fabulous shorts, all about you-know-what, that’s touring the country and drawing crowds from Tulsa to Tampa… in Key West for one night only.
Full schedules and info at or

Albert Nobbs (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Albert Nobbs

For whatever reason, I found myself thinking of Rene Magritte  and Peter Sellers constantly while watching "Albert Nobbs," the Academy Award nominated film for the category of Best Actress, Glenn Close. As soapy as the film is, Close does a remarkable job as the gender-bending butler Albert Nobbs. It is a role that could very well be played for its dark kitsch. But Close walled in my critical defenses and it became increasingly difficult  for me not to admire her or rather, him. Close IS Albert. She doesn't budge an inch out of character. 

Albert's impenetrable black bowler hat, her Martian white features and  far away extraterrestrial expressions pay tribute to everything from Anthony Hopkins in "The Remains of the Day" to Peter Sellers in "Being There", yet Close makes the character uniquely her own. This is a person who is all occupation and function. Albert Nobbs is a complete visual painting right out of Magritte's The Son of Man (1964). The film is at its best when we see Nobbs fully within her own mystery. She is so tight and so reticent that she pushes Victorian severity to Neo-gothic heights. It comes as  no surprise then, that the modern  Gothic author John Banville co-wrote the screenplay along with Close herself.

There is much heartfelt quirk and stormy Oppression here, but like the famous Magritte painting showing a embodied suit with no visible head, the film is missing its core.

Nobbs is star-struck by the brash and devil-may- care female-as male- painter Hubert played wonderfully by Janet Mcteer. There is the progressive hint here of a Utopian future where people can be as they want to appear without any difference in a discriminating 19th century. Their scenes together are full of camaraderie, tension and haunt. But then there is so much back and forth ala "Downton Abbey" that it seems like so much soap opera on PBS. 

It is less compelling to worry about whether the young Helen (Mia Wasikowska) will survive her abusive Joe (Aaron Johnson) who is not really attractive at all. One wonders why the spunky Helen is drawn to him in the first place, since he seems to have all the compassion of a sociopath. Even fatherhood doesn't soften him.

Most of the characters seem secondary. There is the supercilious and harsh Mrs Baker (Pauline Collins) and a doctor played by the fine actor Brendan Gleeson who seems to primarily exist in order to uncover Albert's secret.

With a bit of tweaking, "Albert Nobbs"could have been as eerie or as riveting as a David Cronenberg character study. There is much hustle and bustle around Albert, but she / he remains detached. She is a cypher unto herself, content to peer in closets and venture between walls. Close's role has as much in keeping with the spaced out and aghast fiqures of George Tooker than anything else.

Whatever its melodramatic pitfalls at times,"Albert Nobbs" will not leave fans of Glenn Close disappointed. Her nomination is no twist of fate. The film is as much a cinematic interpretation of Rene Magritte and Sellers' Chauncey Gardiner, as it is a quirky drama of manners and cultural hopes.

Write Ian at