Best Worst Movie
By Leor Galil, with another take by Ray Pride
In the trailer for the new movie “Birdemic: Shock and Terror,” the film’s hero celebrates a million-dollar deal with a high-five from a co-worker. That money is an achievement, a goal people think about endlessly.
It’s something recent DePaul University graduate Patrick Dowell ponders from time to time. And Dowell knows just what he’ll do with that cash.
“I just wish I had one-million dollars: I’d buy every bad movie ever made if I could,” Dowell says.
Dowell is not alone in his love for bad cinema. People across the country have been packing movie theaters at midnight for decades to see these oft-terrible films. Though the phenomenon surrounding bad movies, and their role in cult film culture, is nothing new, it’s seeing a sudden resurgence.
“I don’t remember ten years ago there being this kind of new, must-see midnight event,” says Brian Andreotti, the program director for the Music Box, an independent Chicago movie theater. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
The Music Box and IFC offer canny counter-programming to this week’s wide release of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” a historical revenge fantasy about World War II resistance in a mythical France, by offering “Flame & Citron,” Ole Christian Madsen’s crisp, efficient thriller, based on fact, about resistance to the Nazi invaders in Denmark in 1944.
“When your nation is invaded you have to make very important decisions. What do you chose?” is Madsen’s simplest declaration of what his film is about. The themes are timeless and painfully timely: think Tehran. “Flame” and “Citron” were the code names for two resistance fighters, 23-year-old Bent (Thure Lindhardt) and 33-year-old Jørgen (Mads Mikkelsen, seen previously in “Pusher” and “Casino Royale”). Flame, with notably fiery hair, wants to launch armed counterattacks against the occupying forces. Citron, Flame’s driver, and a family man, becomes more and more involved in the clandestine activities. Things go wrong, loyalties are questioned, deeper moral issues are sketched in. The script’s psychological observation is acute and Madsen’s command of dynamic action filmmaking is gratifying. Read the rest of this entry »
Under the Sea
Confined beneath the surface of Disney’s copyrighted sea for nearly twenty years, “The Little Mermaid” is swimming to the Music Box’s silver screen at the end of this month, and after a painstaking, yet rewarding, battle with the animation empire, the latest catch for the theatres “Sing-A-Long” agenda is guaranteed to make a big splash. The theater was forced to hop over legal fences with Disney in the past in order to screen a “Mary Poppins” sing-a-long, and the process of acquiring “The Little Mermaid” was no different. “I just think that Disney is very protective of their animated films because that’s really what they’re most known for,” says Brian Andreotti, the program director at Music Box, one of only two theaters permitted to screen the film. “The Disney studio locks their animated films in the vault,” and, dozens of phone calls later, the movie house has, for the second time, picked the lock. Beginning August 22 and running until the end of the month, guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite character; goodie bags full of props will be distributed for use during the film.
Israel’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Academy Award race after the unceremonious dumping of the tender deadpan of “The Band’s Visit,” Joseph Cedar’s “Beaufort” is a vivid, intense portrait of soldiers not only in battle, but in retreat, that has a force matched only in war movies of recent months by passages in “Battle for Haditha.” Working from an Israeli bestseller and neatly arraying his archetypal soldiers, there’s a whiff of similar despair and visual asperity in Clint Eastwood’s underrated “Letters from Iwo Jima.” Yet Cedar’s depiction of Israeli soldiers under attack in Southern Lebanon by Hezbollah fire during a 2000 battle has its own virtues, among them a lengthy sustained take of destruction that is more powerful than the meandering sequence shot the makers of “Atonement” ought to be proud of but stop bragging about. Anger and absurdity mount. War and war movies will always be with us. 125m. Anamorphic 2.40 widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“Beaufort” opens Friday at the Music Box.
Brother, can you spare a part? “Chop Shop,” Ramin Bahrani’s second New York-set feature, after the impressive, observant “Man Push Cart” (2005), has a whiff of “The Bicycle Thieves” but also of dark-oiled brimstone in the story of a Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco), a 12-year-old boy who beds down in a huge junkyard in the Willet’s Point industrial neighborhood on the outskirts of Queens and gets work in hopes of improving the life of himself and his 16-year-old sister. Alejandro hustles and shills and learns a trade. Touching, lovingly detailed and often moving despite brutal conditions, “Chop Shop” rises above the convenience that the children are accepted in the midst of the thriving squalor. Still, Bahrani’s glimpse of the lowest rungs of American capital makes for a chilling parable. It’s at least twelve billion times better than any movie called “Bear Stearns” could ever be. Bahrani’s semi-documentary style is a quietly thrilling exploration of the limits of vérité. And the final shot? Yes. 84m. (Ray Pride)
“Chop Shop” opens Friday at the Music Box.
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Oscar-winning Austrian selection for Best Foreign Language Academy Award, “The Counterfeiters” (Die Falscher), is very good, no matter how much one might have wished a movie like the sterling, startling “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” (from Romania) to have been in the top five selected through the Academy’s arcane processes, which include the selection of a single entrant from each non-English speaking country, selected by a local industry committee and to have the largest percentage of its dialogue in its native language. Read the rest of this entry »
Those with a depth of knowledge about another culture, its art and artifacts take away a different experience from movies than strangers to that land (or imagined lands). Yet the currents running deep through Jia Zhang-Ke’s startlingly lyrical and sad “Still Life,” which won the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, following the quests of two characters, a coal miner and a nurse, to reunite with lovers long lost, along the course of China’s Yangtze River, which is rising hundreds of feet, immersing hundreds of villages and thousands of years of culture, are, even at simplest glance, rich and haunting. Read the rest of this entry »
We torture. You knew that. Earlier this week, CIA Director General General Michael Hayden testified, “Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees” (the interrogations of two of the subjects were recorded but destroyed). Another drip down the wall. Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Dark Side” (which is distributed by a Canadian-held company) uses the case of an Afghani taxi driver who disappeared to suggest the larger moral failings of our supposed anti-terror policy. A clip of Vice President Cheney saying that we must “work the dark side, spend time in the shadows, use any means at our disposal” may even be the least chilling thing in this dark litany. There’s steely irony in calling “Taxi to the Dark Side” essential; it’s essential, fluent, understated, enraged, engaged filmmaking, but it is essential as well because of the responsibility abdicated by government, both in the executive branch and the Democratic majority that enables crimes like these, the responsibility to question those actions that defeat, defy and undermine the foundations of our country. So sad that that’s true. Gibney’s indignant, measured work, as in “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room,” which he directed, and Charles Ferguson’s “No End in Sight,” which he supervised as an executive producer, stings. Do principles count any longer? 106m. (Ray Pride)
“Taxi to the Dark Side” opens Friday at the Music Box.
By Ray Pride
You could diagram the content, the visual grammar, the momentous performances of Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes Palme d’Or-winning “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile) like a simple, lengthy sentence, and yet what remains awe-inspiring is the sensation you’re left with when it’s over: how on earth did he do this?
Read the rest of this entry »
I grew up on a couple-acre patch of green amid rolling farmland in the west of Kentucky—I spent eighteen years there one week, the tired joke goes—and didn’t grow up with movies. I grew up among people. People who talked. And talked. Stories were everywhere. Histories were spoken aloud. Women and men in their eighties and nineties who had sat on the lap of Civil War veterans when they were small. Legacies were alive. Everyone knows and trusts implicitly the basic, indispensable relationships and alliances and mutual associations in a town of a thousand. Read the rest of this entry »