Documentaries remain the hottest genre in filmmaking today,
and The DocYard continues to bring the best and most recent to their series at
the Brattle Theatre. On Monday night they present Jason Tippett and Elizabeth Mimms's
debut feature Only the Young (2012),
a poetic study of teenagers growing up in the economically blighted setting of
a small, Southern California desert town.
Well, it's not so different now, as many have tried and
failed to reproduce the surreal, absurdist hilarity of the ingenious clowns
celebrated in Monty Python Week! at the Brattle Theatre. Every evening, in
tandem with screenings of A Liar's
Autobiography: The Untrue Story of
Monty Python's Graham Chapman, Bill (son of Terry) Jones's documentary
about the late member of the troupe, they'll present a classic film from the
Python canon, starting Saturday, January 26 with - what else? - the potpourri of skits that
made them famous, And Now for Something
Completely Different (1971).
Kimberly Peirce, now wrapping up her remake of Brian De
Palma's thriller Carrie, first came
on the scene with this groundbreaking 1999 true story about a young woman who
preferred to be a man, much to the confusion and brutal outrage of a small Nebraska community. It won
Hilary Swank a Best Actress Oscar, and proved a landmark in gaining tolerance
for alternative sexual lifestyles.
One. Two. One.
Even though they keep putting their directors in jail, Iran
still produces some of the best films in the world. You might want to catch
some of the more recent offerings at the ongoing Museum
of Fine Arts Festival of Films from Iran. Friday, January 25 they will be screening painter/filmmaker Mania Akbari's One.
The Brattle's "Dead of Winter: Satan on the Screen" comes to
a diabolical climax with Roman Polanski's sardonic, twisted masterpiece, Rosemary's Baby (1968). Adapted from
the Ira Levin novel, it doesn't need many special effects to evoke the chill of
pure evil in its story of a young couple (Mia Farrow and John Cassavettes) who
make friends with some interesting neighbors when they move into the creepy
Dakota (a/k/a "Bramford") building in an otherworldly Upper West Side
Has Spike Lee has been living up to the title of his breakthrough
hit, Do the Right Thing (1989)? These
days he seems to be putting more effort into knocking other filmmakers than in
making good films. This might be his best - a funny, flashy, thoughtful fable
in which he stars as a goofball pizza deliveryman in Brooklyn who gets caught
up in the racial strife simmering during the hottest day of the summer.
I have been remiss in making my adiuex to the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Never mind that the place was colder than Boston by the time we left (if only it was taking place now!). But we saw a lot of nice movies. And we had a great time.
There are many reasons.
Cute, tiny birds.
Tall, statuesque women.
The Coolidge's @fter Midnite series
is screening The Bird with the Crystal
Plumage (1970), the first feature by maestro of suspense and shaman of
shocking violence, Dario Argento. Here an American visiting Rome with his girlfriend gets caught up in a
police manhunt for a killer. That's pretty scary, but what's even more
disturbing is the guy who eats cats.
The cold weather makes everyone long to visit someplace
warm, but the Brattle might be taking that impulse to infernal extremes with
their series "Dead of Winter: Satan on Screen." Their round-up of hellacious
hits begins today with the European cut of Ridley Scott's Legend (1985), in which Tom Cruise plays a hero who must save his
land from a demon played by Tim Curry.
While Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained offers a highly satisfying, simplistic,
wish-fulfillment fantasy about achieving racial justice, Stanley Nelson's
documentary Freedom Riders (2010)
shows what the arduous, perilous struggle was really like. In 1961, hundreds of
activists put their lives on the line peacefully challenging segregation on
public transportation in the Deep South,
achieving more than guns and vengeance ever could.
I watched the Golden Globes a little while ago, and I've got to hand it to them -- it's a nice little show. However, I preferred the Award ceremony I attended earlier in the day, the Awards Brunch for the Palm Springs International Film Festival. True, the Globes had Bill Clinton bringing all his ex-presidential heft to plugging Globe Best Picture nominee "Lincoln," but here at Palm Springs we had Udo Kier arguing with the people at the buffet table about when they were going to start serving.
The HFA offers up another puckishly intricate treat from
Hong Sang-soo. In three intertwined narratives set at a dreary beach resort the
director plays variations on his favorite themes of hopeless love and
existential bewilderment, with each story featuring a character named Anne,
played by Isabelle Huppert.
Many know the surging Korean film industry for its rousing,
bloody genre hits, but it also boasts movies of a more elliptical, enigmatic,
New Wave-y kind. Like this playful, melancholy bagatelle by Hong Sang-soo, a
seemingly autobiographical portrait of a drunken filmmaker whose relationships
are as untidy as the film is exacting and masterful.
I'll comment on my dismal Oscar nominee predictions on another occasion, and also on the dismal nominations themselves (snubs for Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, P.T. Anderson, John Hawkes, and what's with all this hoopla for "Beasts of the Southern Wild?" (I have a theory)). For now, though, since I am in Palm Springs on a jury that will be choosing the best of the three dozen or so films nominated by the countries for Best Foreign Language Oscar, I'll limit my comments to suggesting five alternatives to the actual nominees.
Not so long ago Paul Thomas Anderson's brilliant, bizarre,
and beautiful parable about a whacked-out WWII vet (Joachim Phoenix) and the
charismatic founder of a Scientology-like cult (Philip Seymour Hoffman) was
seen as an Oscar shoo-in. It's since been eclipsed by other wannabes, but don't
be surprised when in a decade or two it makes it into Sight & Sound's Ten Best List.