Friday, May 16, 2008

A summer at the art-house

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2008 at 1:00 PM

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As most of you know by now, this week’s Summer Guide differs from Summer Guides of days past in that we decided to scrap traditional “sections” and just serve up the 111 best things to do this summer. Which meant we slammed everything together, which also meant we slammed the movies altogether. Which also means, in my humble opinion, we went a little heavy on the popcorn stuff and were light on the more independently spirited films.

And as I mentioned in the summer-movie video podcast with Curt Holman (click here), there’s plenty to check out, including the documentary Surfwise, about a man who takes his wife and (ultimately) nine children out on the road, away from society, and essentially to the beach. He was Jack Kerouac before Kerouac, the film boasts. (See trailer above.)

But there’s tons of other stuff. Here’s a calendar of just what’s scheduled to come to Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, pulled from one of their recent press releases. The plot descriptions come courtesy the publicist or from other movie websites. So forgive any rah-rah language.

Don’t forget that some of these films, and others, will be shown at the other art-house theaters around town including the Plaza, Lefont Sandy Springs and the Tara. So consider this just a sampling.

Also, a handful of these are already scheduled for review by our critics. They’re marked with an asterisk (*).

Stay tuned for more info.

May 23

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* BODY OF WAR When Tomas Young saw President Bush on television speaking from the ruins of the Twin Towers, he responded to the call to defend his country by enlisting in the Army. But rather than being sent to Afghanistan to rout out Al Qaeda and Taliban warriors, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq and everything changed. While riding on his first mission to Sadr City — in an unarmored Humvee with no canvas covering — he was shot just above his left collarbone and instantly paralyzed. This is Tomas’ coming home story, as he evolves into a new person, dealing with his disability and finding his own unique and passionate voice against the war. Features two original songs by Eddie Vedder. Winner of the Best Documentary award from the National Board of Review. Directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro.

* BEFORE THE RAINS Written by the late Cathy Rabin, the film takes place in southern India in the late 1930s against the backdrop of a growing nationalist movement. The film explores the turmoil of a man who is divided between two worlds and the choices he makes to gain his own freedom and embrace his true identity. T.K. Neelan (Bose), a Western-educated idealistic young Indian man, finds himself torn between his ambitions for the future and his loyalty to the past when the local villagers learn of an adulterous affair between his boss, Henry Moores (Roache), a British colonialist striving to build a road to expand his spice harvesting business, and Moores’ beautiful married Indian housemaid Sajani (Das). Before the Rains is the English language film debut of acclaimed Indian director and cinematographer Santosh Sivan (The Terrorist, Asoka), starring award-winning actor Linus Roache (“Law & Order,” Priest), Rahul Bose (Mr. & Mrs. Iyer), Nandita Das (Fire, Earth), Tony Award and BAFTA-winner Jennifer Ehle (Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing and The Coast of Utopia, BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice”) and John Standing (V for Vendetta).

May 30

* STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES Is it possible for a photograph to change the world? Photographs taken by soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison changed the war in Iraq and changed America’s image of itself. Yet, a central mystery remains: Did the notorious Abu Ghraib photographs constitute evidence of systematic abuse by the American military, or were they documenting the aberrant behavior of a few “bad apples”? Director Errol Morris (The Fog of War) set out to examine the context of these photographs, talking directly to the soldiers who took them and who were in them. After two years of investigation, he amassed a million and a half words of interview transcript, thousands of pages of unredacted reports, and hundreds of photographs. The story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is now clear what happened there.

* FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON A mysterious red balloon affectionately follows seven-year-old Simon (Simon Iteanu) around Paris in this imaginative tale. His mother Suzanne (Juliet Binoche) is a puppeteer who uses her vocal talents to bring life to the shows she writes. Completely absorbed in her new show, Suzanne becomes overwhelmed by the complications of modern daily life, so she decides to hire Song (Song Fang), a Taiwanese film student, to help her care for Simon. Inspired by the 1956 classic, The Red Balloon. Feeling at times almost improvisatory, this first European-made film by writer/director Hou Hsiao Hsien (Flowers of Shanghai, Millennium Mambo) is a poetic delight. Co-starring Hippolyte Girardot and Louis Margolin. (Fully subtitled.)

June 6

* SURFWISE Like many American outsider-adventurers, Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz set out to realize a utopian dream. Abandoning a successful medical practice, he sought self-fulfillment by taking up the nomadic life of a surfer. But unlike other American searchers like Thoreau or Kerouac, Paskowitz took his wife and nine children along for the ride, all eleven of them living in a 24-foot camper. Together, they lived a life that would be unfathomable to most, but enviable to anyone who ever relinquished their dreams for a straight job. The Paskowitz Family proves that America may be running out of frontiers, but it hasn’t run out of frontiersmen. Written and directed by Doug Pray (Scratch, Hype!).

June 13

A FOUR LETTER WORD When Luke enters the gay bar flanked by his sidekicks, he doesn't know that he is about to meet his match — in hot macho man Stephen. Awakening in a twisted heap of naked strangers, Luke heads to work at a Chelsea sex store where he is forced to face his lifestyle by his co-worker Zeke, a confrontational gay crusader who will stop at nothing short of changing the world. Up the street, actor/waiter Peter is moving in with his longtime boyfriend Derek. His restaurant boss Marilyn is maniacally planning her wedding, but when her AA sponsor, Trisha, declares her attraction, Marilyn's sobriety and marriage may be in jeopardy. Smitten with Stephen, Luke considers giving monogamy a chance. He attends a sexual compulsives meeting where he discovers he is not the only nympho in New York. Luke is falling for Stephen, but it soon turns out that Stephen's cash doesn't flow from a trust fund; he works hard for his money — as a hustler! A relationship between a playboy and a prostitute depends on whether that is the only secret Stephen is keeping. Among party boys, monogamists, addicts, and activists, Luke's quest may unearth answers his heart is not ready to handle. (Directed by Casper Andreas.)

OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES Colorful and action-packed, this jubilant film endearingly spoofs James Bond-style spy adventures from the 1960s. The setting is Egypt, 1955. Cairo is a veritable nest of spies, with everyone wary of everyone and plotting against everyone: the English, French, Soviets — even the radical Eagles of Kheops brotherhood. To bring order to this desert at the edge of chaos, the French Secret Service sends their main weapon: Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (Jean Dujardin), a super agent and ladies man otherwise known as OSS 117. His mission: investigate the death of a friend and fellow spy, control the Suez Canal and establish peace in the Middle East! Directed by Michel Hazanavicius. (Fully subtitled)

BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* From the producers of Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 comes a new film that unflinchingly explores our win-at-all-cost culture through the lens of a personal journey. Blending comedy and pathos, BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* is a collision of pop culture, animated sequences and first-person narrative, with a diverse cast including U.S. Congressmen, professional athletes, medical experts and everyday gym rats.

June 20

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THE SINGING REVOLUTION First occupied by the Soviets in 1939, then by the Nazis, and then by the Soviets again, Estonia lived through decades of terror. By the end of World War II, more than one-quarter of the population had been deported to Siberia, were executed, or had fled the country. Music sustained the Estonian people during those years, and was such a crucial part of their struggle for freedom that their successful bid for independence is known as the Singing Revolution. (Directed by Maureen Castle Tusty and James Tusty.)

JELLYFISH Poignant, often witty and exceedingly cinematic, JELLYFISH tells the story of three very different Tel Aviv women whose intersecting stories weave an unlikely portrait of modern Israeli life. Batya, a catering waitress, takes in a child apparently abandoned at a local beach. Batya is one of the servers at the wedding reception of Keren, a bride who breaks her leg escaping a locked toilet stall, ruining her chance at a dream Caribbean honeymoon. And attending the event with an employer is Joy, a non Hebrew-speaking domestic worker who has guiltily left her son behind in her native Philippines. As this distaff trio separately wends their way through Israel’s most cosmopolitan city, they struggle with issues of communication, affection and destiny — but at times find uneasy refuge in its tranquil seas.

THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI War-torn China in the 1930s is the setting for an epic based on true events. The drama centers on young English journalist George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an American nurse (Radha Mitchell) and the leader of a Chinese partisan group (Chow Yun Fat) who meet in desperate and unexpected circumstances. Together they rescue 60 orphaned children, leading them on an extraordinary journey across hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain, through snow-covered mountains and an unforgiving desert. Along the way they discover the true meaning of love, responsibility and courage. Co-starring Michelle Yeoh and David Wenham. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies).

June 27

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SAVAGE GRACE [The movie], based on the award winning book, tells the incredible true story of Barbara Daly (Julianne Moore), who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland, the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. Beautiful, red-headed and charismatic, Barbara is still no match for her well-bred husband. The birth of the couple’s only child, Tony, rocks the uneasy balance in this marriage of extremes. Tony is a failure in his father’s eyes. As he matures and becomes increasingly close to his lonely mother, the seeds for a tragedy of spectacular decadence are sown. Spanning 1946 to 1972, the film unfolds in six acts. The Baekelands’ pursuit of social distinction and the glittering ‘good life’ propels them across the globe. We follow their heady rise and tragic fall against the backdrop of New York, Paris, Cadaques, Mallorca and London.

WANTED 25-year-old Wes was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. His boss chewed him out hourly, his girlfriend ignored him routinely and his life plodded on interminably. Everyone was certain this disengaged slacker would amount to nothing. There was little else for Wes to do but wile away the days and die in his slow, clock-punching rut. Until he met a woman named Fox. After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad’s death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself. With wickedly brilliant tutors — including the Fraternity’s enigmatic leader, Sloan — Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted. But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny.

July 4

THE ANIMATION SHOW A collection of twelve short animated films, including: “Bunnies,” “Fallen Art,” “F.E.D.S,” “Fireworks,” “Guard Dog,” “Hello,” “The Man with No Shadow,” “The Meaning of Life,” “Pan with Us,” “Rock Fish,” “Ward 13,” When the Day Breaks.” (Directors include Bill Plympton.)

WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER? Blake Morrison (Colin Firth) deals with his father Arthur’s (Jim Broadbent) terminal illness and imminent death. Blake’s memories of everything funny, embarrassing and upsetting about his childhood and teens are interspersed with the present, as he struggles to come to terms with his father, and their history of conflict, and learns to accept that one’s parents are not always accountable to their children.

July 11

MOTHER OF TEARS The final installment of Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. The film centers on a young American art student, Sarah, who “unwittingly opens an ancient urn that unleashes the demonic power of the world’s most powerful witch. As a scourge of suicides plague the city and witches from all over the world converge on Rome to pay homage, Sarah must use all her own psychic powers to stop the ‘Mother of Tears’ before her evil conquers the world.”

July 18

ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD Filmmaker Werner Herzog travels to the Antarctic community of McMurdo Station, on Ross Island, the headquarters for the National Science Foundation and home to eleven hundred people during the austral summer. McMurdo is a gathering place for people who want to step off the map and where everyone seem to be full-time travelers and part-time workers. Beyond the settlement, Herzog ventures from the under-ice depths of the Ross Sea to the brink of the Mount Erebus volcano. Over the course of his journey, nature in the wild shares equal time with human nature and he encounters many a colorful character along the way.

July 25

UP THE YANGTZE At the edge of the Yangtze River, not far from the Three Gorges Dam, young men and women take up employment on a cruise ship, where they confront rising waters and a radically changing China. (Directed by Yung Chang.)

Aug. 1

CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORYA sleeper hit at the Telluride Film Festival, CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is the true-life story of the passionate three-decade relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood (whose Berlin Stories was the basis for all incarnations of the much-beloved Cabaret) and American portrait painter Don Bachardy, thirty years his junior. From Isherwood’s Kit-Kat-Club years in Weimar-era Germany (the inspiration for his most famous work) to the couple’s first meeting on the sun-kissed beaches of 1950s Malibu, their against-all-odds saga is brought to dazzling life by a treasure trove of multimedia. Bachardy’s contemporary reminiscences (in the Santa Monica home he shared with Isherwood until his death in 1986) artfully interact with archival footage, rare home movies (with glimpses of glitterati pals W.H. Auden, Igor Stravinsky and Tennessee Williams), reenactments, and, most sweetly, whimsical animations based on the cat-and-horse cartoons the pair used in their personal correspondence. With Isherwood’s status as an out-and-proud gay maverick, and Bachardy’s eventual artistic triumph away from the considerable shadow of his life partner, CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is above all a joyful celebration of a most extraordinary couple.

Aug. 15

THE LAST MISTRESS A man is torn between two women--one demonic, one angelic. The young and dissolute Ryno de Marigny is betrothed to marry Hermangarde, a virtuous gem of the French aristocracy. But some, who wish the union not to occur, whisper that the young man will never break off his affair with Vellini, which has been going on for years. In a swril of confidences, betrayals and secrets, feelings will prove their strength to be invincible. (Directed by Catherine Breillat and starring Asia Argento.)

Aug. 22

BOY ABOY A is a powerful coming-of-age drama that raises difficult questions about the morals of our times. BOY A is a fictional story starring Andrew Garfield (Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle theatre awards winner 2006) as Jack. His involvement in the murder of another child means Jack, at 24, has spent most of his young life in juvenile prisons. Released from prison into an unrecognizable adult world, Jack is given a new name, new job, new home; a new life. But anonymity is both a blessing and a curse as Jack has to contend with not being able to tell the people he gets to know, and love, of his true past and the monstrous secret he must keep hidden.

The drama also stars acclaimed actor and director Peter Mullan (The Magdalene Sisters, Children of Men) as Terry, Jack’s care worker and the only person he can really trust.

Co-starring Shaun Evans (Teachers) and Katie Lyons (Green Wing), Boy A is based on the award-winning novel by Jonathan Trigell, has been adapted for the screen by writer Mark O’Rowe and is directed by John Crowley (Pinter’s Celebration, Intermission).

Sept. 5

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THE EDGE OF HEAVEN The fragile lives of six people connect on emotional voyages toward forgiveness and reconciliation in Germany and Turkey. Nejat disapproves of his widower father Ali’s choice of prostitute Yeter for a live-in girlfriend. But changes his mind when he discovers she sends money home to Turkey for her daughter’s education. Yeter’s sudden death distances father and son. Nejat travels to Istanbul to find Yeter’s daughter Ayten. However, political activist Ayten is already in Germany, having to flee the Turkish police. There, she meets Lotte who invites rebellious Ayten to stay in her home, a gesture not pleasing to her conservative mother. When Ayten is eventually arrested, she is deported and imprisoned in Turkey. Lotte travels to Turkey, where she gets caught up in the seemingly hopeless situation of freeing Ayten.

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