Saturday, February 27, 2016

Anomalisa (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Charlie Kaufman (Synedoche, Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation) is the prince of eerie cinema. His pair of directed films hit upon the eye with hard to define sensations and some surely think of him as an acquired sight.

Kaufman's latest film surprises again. In "Anomalisa," Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a famous self-help writer in a rut. He is bored with life. Nothing delights him. Stone has no energy.  Worse still, the people seem invariably the same, no matter male or female.

Stone is at a loss; he is more depressed than anxious. He checks in to the Hotel Fregoli in Cincinnati. His attending a conference. Stone can't relax. He is restless. Stone resolves to go down the hall convinced he hears an unusual cadence

He discovers two girls Emily and Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh).  He is hooked.

This film might seem the stuff of Woody Allen or Todd Solondz. This comparison would be right were it not for the fact that the film is composed of animation made from a 3D printer, creating characters of quirky pathos and spookiness---as heartfelt as they are unearthly.

Everywhere  we gaze, we see people marching to and fro, going to work, walking and eating all in identical manners. In every face there is a disturbing crack. As if only one bad day will have your face fall to the ground like disintegrated leaves.

Though it has its Orwellian thrills, the film more thoroughly startles you with the poignant delicacy of its stop action characters. Every detail is handled with the grace of a calligraphist. Loneliness is explored. Human anatomy is found and revealed along with the hunger of desire and what it feels like to want and not be able to have. Michael and Lisa are no mere creatures of light and color, but actual people.

The couple is trapped in a sci-fi fever dream, but this is only a plot device to propel us to another question: as we essentially live in a technologically immersive world, how close are the animations to us, and vice versa. More to the point, what is makes us "human" or can it all be mapped and produced?

Both the story and the medium used to convey it, speak in tandem and contain duplicate questions.

"Anomalisa" oddly sweet and melancholy with a touch of fear will have you questioning just what is actually genuine or real, giving a feeling not unlike the 70s era "The Stepford Wives," or the more recent "Black Swan."

Write Ian at

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Week of February 26 - March 3 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Count ‘em! Seven Films on Tropic Screens…
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Key West Citizen

As we get caught up in Oscar fever, Tropic Cinema is squeezing even more Academy Award nominated films onto its four screens. By skillful scheduling there are seven movies playing at the Tropic this week. Wow!

“The Revenant” is still playing if you want to catch Leo Dio (that’s Leonardo DiCaprio to the less hip) in the role that may bring him an Oscar. This gritty Western gives us Leo as Hugh Glass, a hunter left for dead after an encounter with an enraged grizzly. But Glass refuses to give up the ghost, seeking revenge on the man who left him behind. Dark Horizon says, “Equal parts beautiful and brutal, it’s easily one of the most unsettling films of the past few years. It’s also one of the best.” And Cinencuentro calls it, “a visceral experience, starring actors at its best, and filmed in a very spectacular way.”

New to local screens is “Mustang,” the story about five young orphaned sisters growing up in a conservative Turkish village. Irish Times tells us, “Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s brilliant, affecting Academy Award-nominated drama, loosely based on her own upbringing, initially resembles ‘The Virgin Suicides’ only to swerve into nail-biting thriller terrain.” And Reforma finds it to be “a shocking portrait about the role of women in modern societies still governed by sexism.”

Another Middle Eastern film is “Theeb,” a “Bedouin Western” that follows a young boy trying to survive in the Wadi Rum desert of Southern Jordan. The New Republic describes the Oscar-nominated film as “an inversion of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ -- a film told from the perspective of Arab Bedouins rather than colonial adventurers, a scrappy coming of age story rather than a grand tale of epic, colonial ambitions.” And Los Angeles Times adds that this is “a disarmingly complex boyhood adventure with no shortage of tension or harsh beauty.”

Also new is “Anomalisa,” a film from the fetid brain of Charlie Kaufman. Here, animated stop-motion puppets portray an antisocial writer and the woman who brings him out of his shell. Voiced by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, this is the first R-rated animated film ever to be nominated for an Oscar. calls it “charmingly odd and disarmingly funny.” And The List says, “Achingly melancholic and philosophically ambitious, ‘Anomalisa’ molds reality into something genuinely magical.”

A different kind of satire is “Hail, Caesar!” -- Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedy about Hollywood in the ‘50s. Josh Brolin and George Clooney headline this wry romp about a studio fixer trying to retrieve a kidnapped star. Urban Cinephile tells us, “A burnt out Hollywood Executive, a kidnapped movie star, a tenacious gossip columnist and a study group with communist tendencies are some of the scrumptious characters in this latest Coen Brothers jewel.” And Blog de cine sees it as “A film that knows how to laugh at itself and those things it represents without being coarse or easy.”

Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” may surprise you as it enumerates the successful ideas in foreign countries that got their start in America. Sure, this documentary pushes Moore’s liberal agenda, but that’s what we expect with him. The Young Folks calls it “an important message on the social, political and economic state of our country.” And Rolling Stone sums it up: “A crazy-like-a-fox documentary hell-bent on seeing the best in people. Other people. Not us Americans. Turns out we suck at practicing what we preach. It’s classic Michael Moore.”

And you can catch your breath with "The Lady in the Van,” a “mostly true” story about an elderly woman who parks her van in a British author’s driveway … for 15 years. Maggie Smith is perfect in the role. Spirituality and Practice describes it as “a vibrant dramedy about the idiosyncratic relationship between a homeless elderly woman and a lonely playwright.” And The Film Stage adds, “Without slipping into mushy sentimental overtures, the movie has something real and immediate to say about the power of compassion.”

With the Oscars at hand, you’ll want to spend a lot of time at the Tropic.

Anomalisa (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Anomalisa” Questions Reality and Identity
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Leave it to Charlie Kaufman to give us a movie about a self-help author who can’t help himself. You remember Kaufman, the guy who wrote “Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Also he wrote and directed “Synecdoche, New York.”

All strange movies that play mind games.

Kaufman returns to that familiar (for him) territory with “Anomalisa” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema. This is the only R-rated animated film ever nominated for an Academy Award.

Oh, did I forget to mention that it’s animated (his first ever)? The stop-motion puppetry adds to the film’s off-center nature. As does the lead character, a man unable to interact with other people.

Did I mention he hears voices in his head?

It’s kinda weird, an animated character who hears voices in his head voiced by an off-screen actor.

David Thewlis (those “Harry Potter” movies, “The Theory of Everything”) speaks for the anthropophobic writer. Kaufman’s guy Michael has severe problems relating to other people, even his own wife and son. He hears them speaking in a male voice (Tom Noonan). But his social awkwardness begins to change when he meets an interesting woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) during a book signing in Cincinnati. However, the voices in his head keep interfering.

This follows Kaufman’s usual themes of reality and identity. His prototypical protagonist is a man with self-doubt and frustration facing a fantasy world.

Animator Duke Johnson helped Kaufman direct this movie.

If you have any questions about Charlie Kaufman, I think you can sum him up in the title of another movie he penned: “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

This Year’s Top Ten+ Oscar Predictions (Rhoades)

This Year’s Top Ten+ Oscar Predictions
Reviewed by Rhoades
Film Critic, Cooke Communications

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be presenting its awards on February 28th. Yes, it will be hosted by comedian Chris Rock. This year’s theme is “We All Dream in Gold,” a reference to the golden statuette that goes to winners.

Hopefully, you’ve already bought your tickets to Tropic Cinema’s gala “Oscars at the Tropic” celebration. General admission includes two drinks and hors d’oeuvres. A limited number of VIP tickets are available. These include a champagne reception, food, swag bag, and watching the Red Carpet interviews and Oscar presentations in the comfortable Carper Theater.

As a film critic, folks expect me to pick the best pictures and actors each year. But there’s often a difference between “best” and “winner.” So here’s my prediction of winners of the main categories at the 88th Academy Awards.

  • Best Picture -- “Spotlight” is my favorite, but “The Revenant” has a good shot to win.
  • Best Actor -- No question, this is Leonardo Dicaprio’s year. He’ll pick up an Oscar for “The Revenant.”
  • Best Actress -- Brie Larson will win it for “Room.” But I have to admit Saoirse Ronan gave a great performance in “Brooklyn.”
  • Best Supporting Actor -- The sentimental favorite, Sylvester Stallone will no doubt get the prize for “Creed.”
  • Best Supporting Actress -- Alicia Vikander is an up-and-comer who could win for “The Danish Girl.” But many bets are on Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs.”
  • Directing -- At his advanced age, George Miller is a last-chance contender for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But Alejandro G. Iñárritu is the likely winner with “The Revenant.”
  • Animated Feature Film -- “Inside Out” has the inside track.
  • Documentary Feature -- You can rest assured that “Amy” will walk away with an Oscar.
  • Foreign Language Film -- Most likely, “Son Of Saul” will grab this one.
  •  Best Cinematography -- I’d vote for the lush, visually stylistic “Carol,” but the gritty realism of “The Revenant” might claim it.
  •  Original Score -- That old maestro Ennio Morricone definitely should win for “The Hateful Eight.” But if he doesn’t, John Williams will take it for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
  •  Original Song -- Smart money is on “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” But “Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground” has many fans too.
  •  Visual Effects -- C’mon, you have to give this award to the futuristic “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” 
  •  Adapted Screenplay -- A no brainer, “The Big Short” will win this one.
  •  Original Screenplay -- “Spotlight” should win, but this is the Academy’s opportunity to lessen all that OscarsSoWhite criticism by handing it to “Straight Outta Compton.”

How well did I do? Tune in to the Oscars on Sunday night and find out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Revenant (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

DiCaprio Gets Gritty In “The Revenant”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As a boy I used to wear my coonskin cap and sing about how Davy Crockett “killed him a bear when he was only three.” But in “The Revenant” -- the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie playing at Tropic Cinema -- we meet a grizzled frontiersman who nearly gets killed by an angry grizzly.

As it turns out, getting mauled by a bear is the least of Leo’s problems.

Based on “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” by Michael Punke, this film introduces us to Hugh Glass (c. 1780 - 1833), a real-life fur trapper who joined an expedition into the Louisiana Purchase wilderness. After being attacked by a tribe of Arikara, Glass meets up with the aforementioned grizzly. Then, betrayed by a member of the hunting party, he is left for dead.

But “revenant” refers to a person who refuses to give up the ghost.

Bent on revenge (as foretold by the book’s title), Glass crawls out of his grave and stumbles through the snowy woods on an arduous 200-mile trek to Fort Kiowa in South Dakota. Along the way he must fight off more Arikara, escape dangerous Frenchmen, and survive the freezing cold. He’s that determined to find the villain who tried to kill him.

Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Great Gatsby”) takes on the role of vengeful Hugh Glass, generating Oscar buzz for this physically challenging performance. Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Legend”) is cast as his murderous nemesis John Fitzgerald. And ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Ex Machina) portrays Captain Andrew Henry, leader of the belabored hunting party.

DiCaprio cited “The Relevant” as one of the most demanding films he’s ever undertaken. “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. I was enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.”

Scheduled to be shot entirely in Canada, warming temperatures forced the film crew to chase snow to 12 different locations in three different countries, wrapping up the last scenes at the tip of Argentina where snow still lay on the ground. The budget mushroomed from $60 million to $135 million.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu shrugs off the film’s high price tag. “We all knew what we wanted, we knew how to get it, but every obstacle was in the way of what we needed.”

So the studio gave him leeway -- allowing the $75 million overrun. “Every other film of mine has been on budget,” he says defensively. “But nobody will go to a film because the guys were on schedule and on budget. It’s how good the film is.”

Iñárritu has a point. At last year’s Academy Awards he won Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture for “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” And no one cared whether it came in on budget or not.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Oscar Night 2016 (Brockway)

Oscar Night at the Tropic

by Ian Brockway

The Oscars are upon us and it is time for Tinsel Town once more. Yet again, Leonardo DiCaprio is up for Best Actor, this time for his role as hairy fur trapper Hugh Glass with blood on his beard, bent over double with revenge. Will DiCaprio get the golden man that he so works to receive, or will he have to enact more Passion Plays and cinematic sufferings?

Find out at the Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton Street---the place to see the stars and peep at the paparazzi in Key West!

The Tropic Cinema is having its iconic Oscar Gala on Sunday February 28th at 8:30 pm. VIP tickets are available $100 for members, $125 for non-members which entitles you to sensational snacks, a sparkling swag bag of goodies, velvet roped early access into the spacious Carper Theater and a bubbly champagne reception from 6 to 7 pm.

Dress to the nines or be as anonymous as you like, but remember that everyone is exclusive at The Tropic.

If you do not wish to have the VIP experience, tickets are $35 for members and $40 for nonmembers, with seating in the lovely screening rooms, two drinks and complimentary hors d'oeuvres.

And...Don't let Kate Winslet upstage you this year. Prizes will be given for the Most Fabulously Dressed.

See you at The Tropic, the Southernmost bridge to our brightest stars!

The Lady in the Van (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett is the groundbreaking comedian and playwright who collaborated with Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke in "Beyond the Fringe" a revue in the 1960s. In 1987, Bennett did a series of monologues for British television, titled "Talking Heads."

"The Lady in the Van" directed by Nicholas Hytner and written by Bennett concerns a bizarre relationship that the author had with an eccentric pianist supposedly named Mary Shepherd that ran from the seventies to the mid-eighties.

Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith) is a cranky but likable seventy year-old who happens to be homeless. She resides in her van which she parks wherever she can. As she is running out of undetected places, Shepard parks in front of the residence of Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) He reluctantly agrees to let her park in front for a few days. Bennett, who has writer's block, takes to peering at Shepherd in the front lot as a source of welcome distraction. He gradually gives her more and more leeway, to a point, giving her bathroom and garage access while asking her questions.

While actor Maggie Smith does not stretch her acting muscles all that much here---once again she is fretful and antisocial--- she does a fine limber job in juggling both comedy and dramatic weight.

The strength of the movie is in the adept and mysterious story that unfolds bit by bit. Just who is this nationalistic lady named who gives her name as Mary? Is it all true or all fiction? A piano is the only singular thing that can bring her out of her shell.

While the tone is predominately light through most of the film, there are some wonderful strains of darkness. On occasion, the van is attacked and pummelled upon like a besieged sub from WWII, which gives the occupant night terrors. The oft-recognizable Jim Broadbent plays a smarmy ex-constable who would make Patricia Highsmith proud.

Excellent as well is Alex Jennings who surrealistically plays Alan Bennett as a pair: one Alan is a playwright, the other, a hasselled, domestic fret-fly and worry wart.

Humorous indeed are the Monty Python touches here and there that spin wildly at a certain point in the film. This keeps one on his/her toes as well as in stitches.

The transfixing element about "The Woman in the Van" is that it doesn't show its hand all at once. What starts out as a grouchy lady story ends up as something of a suprise with enough gallows humor and heart to keep you guessing.

Write Ian at

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Revenant (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Revenant

The much anticipated Best Picture Nominee "The Revenant" by Alejandro Inarrito has arrived. This Gothic epic about the life of Hugh Glass, an ambitious trapper, in 1823 is nothing less than a rapidly moving interpretation of the paintings of Charles Marion Davis, the legendary painter of The Old West.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Glass, a bearded, driven man who mentors his son and the people who work under him. When his group is ambushed by Native Americans, Glass becomes separated from the camp and he is attacked by a bear.

It shows no mercy.

As our furry Ecce Homo frontiersman is soaked in blood and nearly comatose, Glass's buddy John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy)  argues with Glass's son (Forrest Goodluck) whether to deliver a fatal mercy act to his associate or leave him for dead.  When the son raises a fuss Fitzgerald shoots him. The disabled Glass can only seethe with a sputtering rage.

This starts a dog eat dog fight for survival.

DiCaprio has never been better as the anxious and resillient father who will do anything to live and make things right. He is up for the Best Actor Oscar. Tom Hardy for his part completly inhabits this callous and petty man who cares nothing for anyone.

On one level this is a revenge story in the realm of "High Noon" or "The Unforgiven." But the film also has deeply poetic moments where nature brims with life but is silent in judgment. Hugh Glass encounters death sign after death sign. In one scene, he faces a tremendous mound of skulls. The trapper is living in a realm dictated by a natural Tarot. Unfazed, Glass moves on and so does the film. Despite its near three hour running time, there is nothing superfluous or unneccesary in this tale. And although very different from "Dances with Wolves," it is no less philosophical in showing an earth that is steadfast, patient and always carnivorous. Glass is in a left in a tango of terror coupled with circumstances that are not of his making. The monstrous Montana and nasty North Dakota of the 1800s is amoral and without preference; it is of no consequence if Glass perishes or lives another day. Cacophony and suffering lie in wait.

Write Ian at

Friday, February 19, 2016

Week of February 19 - 25 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Screens Four Gotta-See Film
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Key West Citizen

Get in line. Here is a quartet of films that you’ll need to see if you want to enjoy an in-the-know conversation at the next cocktail party you attend. These four movies are getting lots of buzz among cinephiles.

First up: Leonardo DiCaprio will likely win an Oscar for his star turn in “The Revenant,” a gritty western based on the legend of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper who meets up with a grizzly bear, a bad man, and a warring tribe of Arikara. The title refers to someone who returns from the dead. Dark Horizon describes it as “Equal parts beautiful and brutal, it’s easily one of the most unsettling films of the past few years. It’s also one of the best.” National Post gushes, “Such beauty almost beggars belief, even as it reminds us what cinema-as-storyteller does best.” And International Business Review concurs, “This is the film that DiCaprio has been waiting for and one that is sure to finally win him that elusive Oscar.”

Maggie Smith stars as “The Lady in the Van,” the mostly true story of a homeless woman who parks her van in a writer’s driveway for 15 years. Poignant and funny, this British dramedy was filmed on the actual street where it happened. Toronto Star says, “The joy of the film comes in watching Smith work her magic.” And Dallas Morning News agrees “Smith’s performance as the bizarre old lady, who manages to get help by rejecting it, is the reason to watch this film.”

Here the title refers to a biblical epic starring A-lister actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), but in truth the Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” follows the tribulations of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a studio fixer out to retrieve his kidnapped star. Along the way you will meet singing cowboys, aquatic actresses, dancing sailors, and a coterie of Communist screenwriters in this funny sendup of Hollywood in the ‘50s. The Atlantic calls it, “An unexpectedly sweet and utterly satisfying confection.” Nerdist tells us, “It’s about putting in everything we know about Classic Hollywood in a single, hilarious package.” And People Magazine concludes, “It’s all nuts, and the actors couldn’t be having more fun.”

In “Where to Invade Next” crusading filmmaker Michael Moore visits nine other countries to learn lessons that America has forgotten. It’s a documentary that makes you think twice about what we want for the US’s future. Detroit News explains, “Moore, taking on his everyman role, delights in sharing that many of the programs and policies he highlights are founded on American ideals.” And Rolling Stone sees it as “a crazy-like-a-fox documentary hell-bent on seeing the best in people. Other people. Not us Americans. Turns out we suck at practicing what we preach. It’s classic Michael Moore.”

So get your tickets and grab a seat. The show’s about to begin.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Lady in the Van (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“The Lady in the Van” Is a Mostly True Story Of a Crazy Old Woman
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What would you do if an elderly woman parked her van in your driveway and set up housekeeping? Not just for a few nights, but for 15 years.

Alan Bennett allowed it. Then he went on to write a memoir about it, which he turned into a funny play. And now this “mostly true story” has become a film.

Simply called “The Lady in the Van,” this droll dramedy is entertaining audiences at the Tropic Cinema this week.

Formerly a history professor, the real-life Alan Bennett made his name in show biz as a collaborator with British comedians Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke. After helping pen the satirical revue “Beyond the Fringe,” he went on to write numerous plays and screenplays (“The Madness of King George,” “The History Boys”). In 1999 he wrote the play about his encounter with Miss Mary Shepherd.

Turns out, that wasn’t her name at all. Margaret Fairchild had been a promising pianist (she studied under Alfred Cortot), but after getting locked up in a looney bin, then escaping, she went on the lam.

Bennett permitted the crazy old woman to park in his driveway in order to keep her dilapidated Bedford van out of his street view. Eventually Miss Mary came to be accepted by the reluctant neighbors, and by Bennett himself.

Acclaimed British actress Maggie Smith starred in the play during its run in London’s West End. When it came to the screen, director Nicholas Hytner convinced her to reprise the role.

Also reprising the role of Alan Bennett is Alex Jennings, looking something like a bespectacled William H. Macy (with a Brit accent).

Bennett’s fastidious, timid character is the perfect foil for Mary Shepherd’s unkempt, irascible, shrew.

However, along the way, we come to discover this is not really Alan Bennett’s story. Rather it’s a poignant portrait of an addled old woman, summed up in the line: “In life, going downhill is an uphill job.”

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Youth (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Paolo Sorrentino, perhaps the closest to Federico Fellini in current cinema, both engages and confuses again in "Youth," an ambitious follow up to the excellently rendered "The Great Beauty."

Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a septuagenarean composer on holiday, consumed by his wife's illness. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a dyspeptic film director and writer who ties himself in mental knots. Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is a young bohemian actor trying to tap into his next role and detach himself from typecasting. They are all here sunning themselves at a Swiss Alps resort.

There are a multitude of stories in this existential tale and the film is nothing less then a cinema equivalent of the author Thomas Mann in breadth and tone. Ballinger walks through each level of the resort with a strange mixed expression of passivity and regret. As in Sorrentino's previous film, odd characters propel themselves like silent satellites around the periphery of Ballinger's realm. Most of the time he is a silent observer, preoccupied with memory and loss. At times, he spies only the curve of a woman's shoulder or the isolated mound of an exposed breast, as rare as an island. Touch is foreign to Ballinger but he can always look. Throughout the film, Ballinger emerges as a kind of human camera. Events occur around him constantly be they gradual or sudden but the musician is often neutral and slow to react. The one time he does emote violently, is during a meeting with the Queen's emmisary (Alexander McQueen)

Both Jane Fonda and pop star Paloma Faith appear as an egocentric actress and a video star, respectively, along with a somewhat formidable simulation of the Argentine football legend, Maradona.

The film is shot beautifully with the power and clarity of a painting by Salvador Dali.

It is less compact and concise than the director's previous outing as there are several subplots to be found, but the film has a laser sharp yet haunting quality that makes a cinematic parallel to either the salacious Dali or the deadpan Magritte. Not all of it makes for coherence. Why, for instance, does Jimmy Tree suddenly inhabit Adolph Hitler?  Still, the film works on an associative level, having the rhythm of a dream.

While the work of Sorrentino might take a patient eye, "Youth" is a fitting bookend to the more percussive chapter of "The Great Beauty." Seen together, the two films appear to correspond to the other as two sides of one haunting image: the first, one  of noisy sexuality, the second, of silent longing.

Both films, either conjoined or separated make a wistful feast.

Write Ian at

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Where to Invade Next? (Bashinsky)

Sloan Bashinsky
Got really choked up several times yesterday during Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next”, showing at Tropic Cinema on Eaton Street, Key West.
Heard several times in my mind during the documentary, “The most important person in America today.” Michael Moore.
Deftly, Moore takes the audience from one foreign  country to another, where something is being done very differently, and far better, than in America.
Throughout the movie, I kept thinking every American should be required to see this film.
Aimed at all age groups and numerous areas of American society, “Where to Invade Next” credits America with what the foreign countries are doing better, which America has forgotten it had invented.
More shocking, “Where to Invade Next” demonstrates the female approach to problem solving and quality of life works a lot better than the male approach.
Hard to imagine testosterone-driven America making that shift. Hard to imagine America surviving without making that shift.
Michael Moore for President!!!

Where to Invade Next? (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Where to Invade Next?

Here is progressive hero Michael Moore's latest film "Where to Invade Next?", his first documentary in six years. Thankfully, the iconic filmmaker has retained his sting and jab.  In this outing, which was apparently produced in secret, Moore playfully suggests that several Joint Chiefs of Staff have sent for him asking, essentially, "How can the United States do better?"

The director has an idea: he will travel across Europe, invade countries that "he can pronounce" and take what can be used to improve America. This sends Moore on a picaresque and colorful odyssey.

In Italy, he visits an average couple. The husband is a police officer while the wife works in the clothing business. They both work hard and like their jobs. Each year, they get seven to eight weeks of paid vacation time. They do pay higher taxes, but they have the biggest benefit of all: while working they are healthy and happy.  Meanwhile Americans work about 40 hours a week, often without happiness or ease. When Moore tells the two that the US does not provide for any paid vacations they are astounded.

Moore than goes to France to see one of the poorest middle schools in the region. The children are given earthy nutritious meals while encouraged to eat green vegetables and there is always cheese. The school chef admits to feeling sorry for American kids. We see their lunch or what passes for it, often a thick brown mass of unidentifiable origin. One kid exclaims "That's a bizarre sauce."

Schools in Finland are more at ease too. There are no standardized testing and precious little homework. Students are free to learn on their own.

Moore visits a Norwegian prison. The inmates are well cared for with clean rooms, a flat screen tv and their own bathrooms. They are not stabbed, pushed threatened by violence, or in fear. The prisoners are treated humanely with respect. The maximum sentence for any crime, even murder, is 21 years. Where we have a repeated incarceration rate of near 80% , Sweden has a mere 20% and if the inmate is a felon, he is still able to vote. The aim is for rehabilitation and self worth in the face of a criminal past.

While this is the director's most breezy and episodic film, it is also scorching and serious in talking about the drug war as a way to insidious supression of the black vote and black power.

As Moore says, "America was built on the backs of slavery and genocide..." Squeamish and uncomfortable this is to hear but horribly, quite true. The stills of Nazi era signs combined with American pre-Civil Rights signs marking "Coloreds Only" remain shocking, depressing, yet striking reminders that the USA is not exceptional or immune to the toxins of hatred and bigotry.

Aside from this honest lashing, the provocateur keeps the tone light in saying that with enough passionate action, we can do the right thing and treat our citizens with respect and equality. Moore interviews several women in the Iceland parliment and they are bouyant and wise. These woman seem indeed, as though they can change the world for the better.

Another vivid interlude is the auteur's travels to Tunisia, where he learns that a female reporter was able to turn things less fundamentalist.

Though Moore may be a good deal less scathing or pointedly outrageous throughout as he was in "Farenheit 911," it does bouy the spirit to see him, wrapped in Old Glory as he treads hopefully from one country to the next on a mission of not war but information.

The best scenes are the ones where Moore finds out something quite positive and cheerful (e.g. a Finnish math teacher who first asks for his students to be happy or when a CEO says that the most important thing is that her employees are healthy) and the director is left speechless.

The ultimate surprise of the film though, is not a quiter more wistful Michael Moore, but rather that paid vacations with saner prisons, schools and civilized working conditions are originally American concepts, started from our forefathers and unions.

In watching "Where to Invade Next?" there is no country we can go to for an antidote.
As always, we can and often do, create the society that we want.

Write Ian at

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Week of February 12 - 18 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Offers Diverse Lineup
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Key West Citizen

What a diverse group of movies -- documentaries and dramas, satires and parodies, shorts and more lengthy ruminations. How could anyone stay home with these films showing at the Tropic Cinema?
First up is Michael Moore’s latest documentary, “Where to Invade Next.” Moore takes us on a world tour, looking for great social concepts that America should adopt. Flick Filosopher says, “Michael Moore doesn’t hate America. But he does wonder how other nations are doing so many things better than the supposed greatest country in the world.” And AV Club adds, “Moore here makes his strongest bona fide argument in ages, albeit one that still gleefully stacks the deck and avoids examining possible downsides too carefully. He even comes across as genuinely patriotic, in his own way.”
“Youth” gives us Michael Caine as an aging composer and Harvey Keitel as his filmmaker buddy. This is a thoughtful look at how life passes us by, no matter what success we’ve had. The Art Desk opines, “‘Youth’ is as psychologically savvy as it is beautiful.” And Nashville Scene says, “‘Youth’ largely consists of a bunch of people rambling around a resort doing nothing. But I can’t think of a better bunch of people to ramble around and do nothing with.”

 “45 Years” is a portrait of a marriage. Facing a 45th anniversary, a couple (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) is forced to confront their true feelings. As Seattle Times describes it: “A marriage lives and dies … we watch its agonized struggle, like a butterfly impaled on a pin.” And St. Louis Post-Dispatch concludes, “Daringly unsentimental, ‘45 Years’ makes a persuasive case that marriage demands not only patience, but guts.”

“The Big Short” continues to school us in the dark forces behind the collapse of the financial housing bubble. Key to the film’s appeal is an ensemble cast that includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carell. notes, “Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using humor to outline the 2008 economic collapse from the inside.” And International Business Times says, “Despite all the praise for Bale, who does indeed do a stellar job, it’s Carell who shines brightest.”

Preparing for the upcoming Academy Awards, here’s a look at “Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action.” These five films only range from 12 to 30 minutes each, but you’ll wish they were longer. Groucho Reviews reminds us, “The 88th Academy Awards ceremony airs on Sunday, February 28, 2016 ... now you have another way to get ready.” And the Patriot Ledger offers, “This is the best overall collection I’ve seen in years, every one a four-star offering.”

And wrapping up the Tropic’s lineup is “Hail Caesar!” This is the Coen brothers’ wacky look at Hollywood of the ‘50s.  Along with George Clooney as the kidnapped movie star that studio fixer Josh Brolin is out to ransom, you encounter an all-star cast that features Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, and several other luminaries. Mountain Xpress calls it “a gleefully playful mood with a film that at once spoofs and honors the last days of the old Hollywood.” And Vox sees it as “a big, Looney Tunes confection of a movie.”

With cinematic choices like this, how could you say no to an evening at the Tropic?

Where to Invade Next (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Michael Moore’s “Where To Invade Next” Invades Tropic Cinema
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

We’ve come to expect interesting, if one-sided, documentaries from that unkempt, roly-poly filmmaker Michael Moore. And ever since his first doc -- an exposé of troubles in Flint, Michigan, called  “Roger & Me” -- we look forward to seeing him act as his films’ on-camera tour guide.

We’ve witnessed him ambush a declining Charlton Heston over guns in “Bowling for Columbine,” decry George Bush’s unjust wars in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” go looking for healthcare in Cuba with “Sicko,” and denounce our economic system in “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

His latest is no less in your face.

“Where To Invade Next” is currently invading the Tropic Cinema.

Michael Moore is sure to polarize his audiences into the red and blue seating sections. You either see him as a hateful traitor to America, or as a patriotic guy trying to save us from ourselves.

In this one, Moore travels around the world to plant the American flag in countries that have adopted our good ideas and made them work even better than we have.

We follow him as he “invades” Finland, France, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Iceland, Italy, Tunisia, and even Slovenia.

This parody of a travelogue invites us to marvels at Moore’s discoveries: supportive unions, good schools, no college tuition, and bankers sent to prison for malfeasance. He also attempts to educate us on the benefit of decriminalizing drugs, prison reform, and the positive role women can play in society.

Moore’s message is that we Americans could remake our country in these images if we have the courage and will.

Needless to say, Michael Moore is supporting Bernie Sanders.

Youth (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Youth” Looks At Aging 
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Hotels make excellent metaphorical stages in movies, a cinematic proscenium where interesting players can strut and fret. Think: “Grand Hotel” or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or even “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

It is to a 5-star resort hotel (Waldhaus Flims) nestled in the eastern foothills of the Swiss Alps that Italian director Paolo Sorrentino brings his players in his second-ever English-language film, “Youth.”

“Youth” is showing at Tropic Cinema.

Starring octogenarian Michael Caine and septuagenarians Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda, the title is a deliberate misnomer. The film looks at the contradictions of aging with a touch of surrealism and sadness.

Here we find a retired composer and his fading filmmaker friend vacationing at the hotel. Fred Ballinger (Caine) is there with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weicz) who acts as his assistant. His director pal Mike Boyle (Keitel) is there with a coterie of writers trying to finish a screenplay. Lena is married to Mike’s son Julian (Ed Stoppard), who has just dumped her for an insignificant pop singer (Palona Faith playing herself).

For these messages about youth and aging, we are introduced to Mike’s favorite star, aging diva Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda in super-thick pancake makeup); frustrated actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), best known for playing a robot; retired Argentinian footballer Diego Armando Maradona (Roly Serrano), body now turned to fat; a well-toned young masseuse (Luna Zimic Mijovic); and a newly crowned Miss Universe (Romanian model Mădălina Diana Ghenea). Colorful characters all, perfect for a hotel setting.

Fred and Mike talk about their lives, which are mostly behind them. Abandoned by her husband, Lena expresses anger at her father, who ignored her as a child. An emissary from Queen Elizabeth asks Fred to perform his famous composition “Simple Songs” at Prince Phillip’s birthday concert, but he crankily refuses. Mike completes his screenplay, but Brenda turns down the movie for a TV part. “Cinema is the past,” she snubs him.

A melancholy reflection on life passing by is not a new theme for Pablo Sorrentino. He won an Academy Award for “The Great Beauty.”

American composer David Lang wrote the music, including the piece being requested for Prince Phillip’s birthday. “Simple Songs #3” has been nominated this year for an Academy Award.

At the 28th European Film Awards, “Youth” won Best Film, Best Director for Sorrentino, and Best Actor for Caine.

However, as one moviegoer put it, “If you’re searching for the meaning of life or some morsel of wisdom, you will be at a loss.”

Didn’t Shakespeare say something about a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”? Maybe he was talking about the meaning of life.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Hail, Caesar! (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hail, Caesar!

With glitz, glamour and sumptuous color, "Hail, Caesar!" hits the screen. This is a Coen Brothers zany and affectionate take on Hollywood's Golden Age, referencing everything from Westerns, Film Noir, Hitchcock, George Stevens and more.

George Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, a self important matinee idol in the shape of Kirk Douglas. On the set of his epic film, he unwitting drinks a mickey and gets kidnapped by a group of men. Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix, a guardian who safeguards actors from tabloid accidents. When Whitlock goes missing, Mannix is on the case. There is a subplot involving a singing cowboy / Kirby Grant character named Hobie (Alden Erenreich) and his struggle to be a sophisticated actor ala Cary Grant or Gable. This storyline has many laugh out loud moments, most of them about Hobie trying to speak his lines and flubbing them along with him trying too hard to be a ladies man.

Though Clooney's role does not handle much, he does well as a clueless and vain actor under some shuttered blinds. The ubiquitous Channing Tatum appears once more as a Gene Kelly with some fine dancing fitting the period, and Tilda Swinton is odd and leering again in an interpretation of Hedda Hopper times two. Last but not least, Scarlett Johansson is here as well as DeeAnna, a rude Esther Williams.

The film is breezy and clever, making a kind of sequel to "Barton Fink" although this one is a bit more comical than the former. Still, this latest outing does have its dark touches, mentioning the Cold War and the Red Scare of the 1950s.

Film buffs will have a good time picking up cues from many films and genres. Busby Berkeley, Gene Kelly musicals and "North By Northwest" are just a few of the appropriations.  Above all, the cinematography by the great Roger Deakins is spectacular. The water scene alone is carbonation for the eye, a completely immersive experience.

While the Coen Brothers play most of the action for laughs in showing hammy actors  either dense or desperate, the film leaves one with a philosophical accent: Whitlock may dream of utopia, but Hollywood reaches back and holds the actor in place with an iron hand.

Ultimately "Hail, Caesar!" makes a trilogy following with "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Intolerable Cruelty." There are plenty of picaresque characters here in keeping with those previous works along with a generous heap of historical fun.

Write Ian at

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oscar Animated Shorts 2016 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The 2016 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

Animation has always been at the forefront of experimental cinema for the simple reason that the genre of animation appears more plastic and immediate than live action. The animated film historically often starts with a pen, paper, a bit of clay or an inanimate object put in motion.

All the better to portray alternate worlds.  And indeed, there are certainly many alternate worlds in this year's short animated films selection.

The show starts with a zany bang with the Pixar produced "Sanjay's Super Team." A young boy is obsessed with a superhero TV show, at exactly the same time that his father is attempting to pray at his Hindu shrine causing great family dismay. One day the boy is brought to the shrine and becomes transported to an alternate land where Krishna and Hanuman fight great battles for Sanjay's hapiness. This colorful story is clever and fast moving in the great tradition of Disney. It also has a philosophical accent: comparisions are made between the father's religion and the son's TV watching. Both involve hero worship.

"World of Tomorrow" by Don Hertzfeldt depicts a noisy and hectic world where memories and people are cloned and human attachment is secondary. While the story is similar to Orwell and Aldous Huxley, the visuals are startling and irreverent as cacocophy and color overlap and become one element or presence.

We are also in the realm of science fiction in the Russian made excellent short "We Can't Live Without Cosmos" by director Konstantin Bronzit. The film showcasing a quirky sensibility with crisp visuals will keep you guessing and laughing from start to finish as two best friends train for a space mission together. Full of deadpan humor but by no means melancholy, the film does have an existential and bittersweet edge. The longing tone of this film mimics Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity."

If animals get at your heart, there is "Bear Story" about a solitary and wistful bear who portrays his story of circus suffering each day in a diorama. Affectionately told with more then a few gasping moments, this simply told tale will pull at your heart. The film is all the more potent because, despite its quirkiness, this is not kids' fare.

One movie that delivers comic relief is "If I Was God" by Cordell Baker. Free-wheeling and exuberant in the manner of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," this film about a boy in junior high definitely delivers.

If you still prefer uplifting, there is a warm and cute story of a traffic light, narrated by comedian Patton Oswalt and "A Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse." The latter is well done and fetching but as innocuous as a Saltine cracker.

The most subversive and controversial of the group is by far "Prologue" by animator Richard Williams of  "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" The film graphically explores the universality of human violence and war in no uncertain terms. The film suggests that this urge, though abhorrent is as primary as a flower and a bee and just as unavoidable. This film is a shocker that will no doubt instill shrieks among the unsuspecting.

This medley rivals the live action category and may even surpass it. Taken as a sojourn, this Oscar bunch makes a good trip, plumbing either the animal mind or the human heart with quirk and equality.

Write Ian at

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Oscar Live Action Shorts 2016 (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The 2016 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Live Action

This year's Oscar shorts are well in the mode of 2015's existential tone, yet they  uphold the tradition of taking us on a global voyage across many lands while being satisfying and engrossing.

"Ave Maria" is a light hearted episode of a Jewish family's struggles during car trouble in Palestine. Visually striking and effervescent, this tale is full of humorous character and detail, along with a subtle subversive quality.

For those of us who like suspense you will find it in "Shok" from Kosovo, directed by Jamie Donahue. Two young friends get mixed up in war. Through the noose of guilt and violence, the pair are steadfast friends. The film is just as much a meditation on friendship as it is an account of war. This story like others in the bunch will pull on your heart in addition to making you gasp.

The excellent and riveting "Everything Will Be All Okay" from Germany and Austria by director Patrick Vollrath is a moment by moment record of an anxious father (Simon Schwarz), just divorced, and the hold his has on his young daughter (Julia Pointner). This film doesn't pull its punches, full of tension and drama that is honest and first rate. The circumstances build gradually like life itself. Though it is explosive, the chain of events never veer into melodrama. Schwartz, through his acting, becomes a living Expressionist woodcut as if chiseled by Kafka.

"Day One" puts us on a trip with Feda (Layla Alizado), a female interpreter for the US Army, as she takes her first job in Afghanistan. Visceral, poignant and uncompromising, this true to life tale is spine-tingling from start to finish in its detail of life. Feda feels a stranger at every turn, though she is culturally accepted. The immediacy of life and death as familiar as the sun forces Feda to feel removed from herself in both spirit and body.

Finally, there is "Stutterer" a sweet and bubbly character study from Ireland about a quirky typographer (Matthew Needham) who wants to overcome a speech impediment. Positive and affectionate, though a bit too light, the story still manages to evoke a smile though the whimsy of its characters.

Though the intense films work better than the two more bouyant shorts, all selections are deftly made in spare sharp, detail without any superfluous baggage or flamboyance. Once again, despite the predominant dark tones, these nominations deliver charge and spirit. Each of these shorts can stand alone in equal weight to their feature film cousins.

Write Ian at

Friday, February 5, 2016

Week of February 5 - 11 (Rhoades)

Tropic Overview

Tropic Cinema Shorts Its Audiences
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Film Critic, Key West Citizen

Get out your yardstick. Tropic Cinema goes short this week. You’ll find the Oscar-nominated “The Big Short” still filling the screens, along with delightful collections of the Oscar-nominated animated and live-action short films.

“The Big Short” uses an ensemble cast -- Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt among them -- to tell the painfully funny story of a group of financial whizzes who get rich by betting against the banking housing bubble. Daily Express says, “Director Adam McKay displays a little bit of Martin Scorsese’s stylish swagger as he uses every possible means to make high finance seem sexy and compelling.” And The Scotsman observes, “‘The Big Short’ may be a comedy, but it never forgets that the joke was on us.”

 “Oscar Shorts - Animation” offers 15 animated films that are 6 to 17 minutes in length. Among them you’ll find “Bear Story,” “Chile Prologue,” and “Russia World of Tomorrow.” L.A. Biz notes, “This year’s batch of animated Oscar shorts offers an array of stunning styles from simple stick figures to classic hand-drawn animation to the most sophisticated CG.” And Philadelphia Inquirer adds, “Old school and new school, color pencils and touchscreen styli, a wide range of formats and techniques are represented … and that's a good thing.”

“Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action” gathers a handful of films ranging from 12 to 30 minutes in length that are particularly noteworthy. Ranging from “Ave Maria” to “Hebrew Day One,” from “German Shok” to “Serbian Stutter” and “Dari Everything Will Be Okay?”, these films will amaze you in their brilliant simplicity.  Chicago Tribune observes, “What happened to that Oscars diversity problem? Poof. Gone. Judging from the five nominated short films in the live-action category, the motion picture academy's problems of blinkered, whitey-white Oscars selection could be solved...” And the Patriot Ledger concludes, “This is the best overall collection I’ve seen in years, every one a four-star offering.”

Switching pace, “45 Years” looks at a couple -- Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay -- who are about to celebrate a big wedding anniversary. But the discovery of the frozen body of an old girlfriend changes the jubilant mood. Journal and Courier explains, “Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s script delves into the fragility of marriage and how one instant can make a person doubt a lifetime choice.” And Montreal Gazette notes, “Rampling and Courtenay don’t even have to raise their voices to command attention.”

Looking for a little shoot-‘em-up fun? Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” is a Western filled with gun-totin’ bad guys -- Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern to name a few -- trapped in a stagecoach way station during a fierce blizzard. Will any come out alive? says, “Viewers whose palates have adjusted to the loquacious maestro’s style will sigh with pleasure.” And Excelsior insists, “If you’re a Tarantino fan, you can’t miss this.”

However, this week’s pièce de résistance is “Hail Caesar!” -- the new Coen brothers comedy starring George Clooney as a kidnapped ‘50s movie star. Josh Brolin is the studio fixer assigned to clean up the mess with the help of an oddball collection of directors, actors, and film crew. An ensemble cast, you’ll encounter Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, and of course Frances McDormand. Parade Magazine calls it “The Coens’ gloriously goofy homage to the glory days of big studios, big stars and the big wheels that churned out the spectacles of Hollywood’s dream factory from a bygone era.” And Los Angeles Times describes it as “a hipster mash note to the way things used to be, it will put a smile on your face and keep it there for the duration.”

Trust me, with any of the films you won’t feel the least bit shortchanged.

Hail Caesar! (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Coen Brothers Say, “Hail Caesar!”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

 Joel and Ethan Coen are brilliant directors with short attention spans. John Ford mostly made Westerns. Preston Sturgis mostly made comedies. Alfred Hitchcock mostly made suspense thrillers. But when it comes to the Coen brothers, their films shift from genre to genre to genre like a kaleidoscope.

The Coens (jokingly referred to as “The Two-Headed Director.”) are known for elaborate, self-conscious homages to past films and filmmaking styles.

Think about it: “Blood Simple” (psychological crime thriller), “Raising Arizona” (black comedy), “Miller’s Crossing” (gangster film), “Barton Fink” (period mystery comedy), “The Hudsucker Proxy” (fantasy), “Fargo” (crime thriller), “The Big Lebowski” (stoner comedy), “O Brother Where Art Thou” (Greek classic retold),  “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (neo-noir drama), “Intolerable Cruelty” (rom-com), “The Ladykillers (British crime comedy remake),  “No Country for Old Men” (neo-Western thriller), “Burn After Reading” (spy comedy), “A Serious Man” (drama), “True Grit” (Western remake), “Inside Llewyn Davis” (musical “biopic”).

And now “Hail Caesar!” (Let’s call it a Hollywood crime comedy).

Coen brothers films often center around a botched crime. Frequently they include kidnapping plots. “Hail Caesar!” is no different in that regard.

“Hail, Caesar!" follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer, a guy who cleans up problems and scandals created by movie stars. The idea is to keep stars’ bad behavior from hitting the gossip rags.

Here, Eddie Mannix is a fixer helping with the production of “Hail Caesar,” a costume drama starring famous actor Baird Whitlock. When Whitlock is kidnapped by a group called The Future, Mannix is the one who must collect $100,000 to rescue him. Chaos ensues, of course.

Some people call “Hail Caesar!” a love letter from directors Joel and Ethan Coen to a bygone Hollywood.

The Tinseltown of the ‘50s is on full display: In addition to the studio’s go-to guy (Josh Brolin) and the kidnapped movie star (George Clooney), you’ll find an entertaining array of oddball characters that includes an effete film director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant swimming star (Scarlett Johansson), a semi-talented hoofer (Channing Tatum), a frustrated film editor (Frances McDormand), a number of Communist screenwriters (Fisher Stevens, Patrick Fischler, Fred Melamed, and David Krumholtz), twin flacks (Tilda Swinton), a Hollywood accountant (Jonah Hill), a randy filmmaker (Christopher Lambert), even a Soviet submarine commander (Dolph Lundgren).

The Coens describe it as the third film in their “Numskull Trilogy” starring George Clooney.

Clooney describes it as another “idiot” film. Actually it’s his fourth “idiot” film with the Coens.

You can find “Hail Caesar!” screening at Tropic Cinema.

Ethan says, “The movie people let us play in the corner of the sandbox and leave us alone. We’re happy here.”

His brother Joel adds, “I like Hollywood just the way it is, actually. I don't think I’d change anything. I like that it’s out here 3,000 miles from where I live.”

As for the Coens’ penchant for playing with differing genres of film, Joel Coen shrugs. “We’ve never considered our stuff either homage or spoof. Those are things other people call it, and it’s always puzzled me that they do.”