Movies I’ll be seeing this year:
Friday, Jan 18th
Jamie is a boorish, insensitive American twentysomething traveling in Chile, who somehow manages to create chaos at every turn. He and his friends are planning on taking a road trip north to experience a legendary shamanistic hallucinogen called the San Pedro cactus. In a fit of drunkenness at a wild party, Jamie invites an eccentric woman—a radical spirit named Crystal Fairy—to come along. What is meant to be a devil-may-care journey becomes a battle of wills as Jamie finds himself locking horns with his new traveling companion. But on a remote, pristine beach at the edge of the desert, the magic brew is finally imbibed, and the true adventure begins. Preconceived notions and judgments fall away, and the ragtag group breaks through to an authentic moment of truth.
With his signature flair, maverick writer/director Sebastián Silva returns (The Maid won the Dramatic Jury Prize in 2009) to unearth the deadpan comedy that results from the archrivalry between his ego-clashing characters. Culminating in a profound audience experience, Crystal Fairy is about the gifts we can receive when we stop reaching for them.
Saturday, Jan 19th
Beto, a security guard in a Mexico City gym, quietly observes the healthy bodies of the muscle-bound patrons, which contrast sharply with his own physical deterioration. Afflicted with a strange illness, the scared and ashamed Beto surrenders to his condition and holes up in his apartment, injecting himself with embalming fluid to stem his increasing decay. Beto’s melancholy grows as he realizes—in the words of an affable morgue attendant—that “the diseased become the disease.” Through the friendly advances of the gym’s female owner, Beto dances with the illusory promise of feeling alive again.
Sebastian Hofmann’s increasingly surrealistic feature debut subverts genre conventions and audience expectations, treating its living-dead protagonist with sensitivity and compassion. Hofmann’s camera boldly exposes the grotesque details of Beto’s physical condition while artfully depicting his isolated existence. Captivating lead actor Alberto Trujillo appears to waste away before our eyes, making his fumbling attempts to cling to life all the more haunting.
Saturday, Jan 19th
Don Jon’s Addiction
Jon Martello objectifies everything in his life: his apartment, his car, his family, his church, and, of course, women. His buddies even call him Don Jon because of his ability to pull “10s” every weekend without fail. Yet even the finest flings don’t compare to the transcendent bliss he achieves alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Dissatisfied, he embarks on a journey to find a more gratifying sex life, but ends up learning larger lessons of life and love through relationships with two very different women.
Crass, funny, and startlingly sincere, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction resonates with its utterly authentic realization of people and place, transcending New Jersey stereotypes by infusing its characters with tantalizing complexities. Gordon-Levitt’s chemistry with costars Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore ignites the screen with heat and emotion. With abundant charm and formidable wit, Don Jon’s Addiction marks the evolution of an incredibly talented actor into a truly gifted writer/director.
Saturday, Jan 19th
We Are What We Are
A seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, Patriarch Frank rules the roost with a rigorous fervor, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost. As a torrential rainstorm moves into the area, tragedy strikes and his daughters Iris and Rose are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family. The most important task that the girls face is putting meat on the table— but not the kind that can be found at the local supermarket. As the unrelenting downpour continues to flood their small town, local authorities begin to uncover clues that bring them closer to the secret that the Parkers have held closely for so many years.
In this reimagining of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name, director Jim Mickle paints a gruesome portrait of an introverted family struggling to keep their macabre traditions alive, giving us something we can really sink our teeth into.
Sunday, Jan 20th (Sunday movies would be in Ogden)
Who is Dayani Cristal?
August 3, 2010, Pima County, Arizona—Deep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered T-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal.” Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who—or what—is Dayani Cristal?
Marc Silver’s masterful documentary assembles the answers to these questions using beautifully realized dramatic sequences with famed actor Gael García Bernal. Silver and Bernal reconstruct this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, into a living and breathing human being with a full and deeply engaging life story. Unfolding like a thrilling crime drama, the film builds to an emotionally devastating climax. Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of one migrant who found himself in that deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.
Sunday, Jan 20th
Ellis and Neckbone are best friends approaching the twilight of their youth. While exploring, they stumble upon the hiding place of charismatic outlaw Mud (played with controlled charm by a well cast Matthew McConaughey), who takes a quick liking to the boys and recruits them to his cause: the search for true love and a clean getaway.
Illustrating a vibrant imagination, sumptuous attention to detail, and a remarkable gift for extracting magnetic performances from a talented ensemble, Nichols hurtles us into the middle of a lush adventure, ensnaring the excitement every youngster feels when trouble lurks everywhere and anything is possible. Steeped in the vanishing myth of the Deep South, a place for which Nichol’s love shines through in each richly textured frame, Mud’s handcrafted vision proves a tall tale for the ages.
Monday, Jan 21st
Seeking a brighter future in megacity Manila, Oscar Ramirez and his family flee their impoverished life in the rice fields of the northern Philippines. But the sweltering capital’s bustling intensity quickly overwhelms them, and they fall prey to the rampant manipulations of its hardened locals. Oscar catches a lucky break when he’s offered steady work for an armored truck company and gregarious senior officer Ong takes him under his wing. Soon, though, the reality of his work’s mortality rate and the murky motives of his new partner force Oscar to confront the perils he faces in his new job and life.
Director Sean Ellis’s return (The Broken premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival) vividly captures the desperation of life amongst the squalid Manila slums, then ratchets up the tension, creating an intense thriller with a poignant humanity and palpable dramatic stakes. In the role of Oscar, Jake Macapagal brings emotional depth to the wrenching choices he must make to sustain his family.
Monday, Jan 21st
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.
The barren landscapes of David Lowery’s poetic debut feature evoke the mythology of westerns and saturate the dramatic space with fatalism and an aching sense of loss. Aided by powerfully restrained performances by Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster, Lowery incorporates an unnerving tension into the film, teetering it at the edge of violence.
The beautiful, irreconcilable dilemma of the story is that Ruth—compelled by the responsibilities of motherhood and her evolving relationship with the deputy she shot—remains haunted by her intense feelings for Bob. Each of them longs for some form of peace. Ironically, it’s Bob, the unrepentant criminal trapped in the romantic image of a bygone past, who is driven by an almost righteous sense of clarity. Following in the footsteps of Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, Lowery’s humanism transcends the genre.
Tuesday, Jan 22nd
Upon release from prison, a solitary man known only as “the Rambler” embarks on a mysterious journey en route to reconnecting with his long-lost brother. Traversing treacherous back roads, lost highways, and isolated small towns, he unearths a multitude of bizarre and wickedly depraved slices of Americana.
In this expansion of his short film of the same name, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, writer/director Calvin Lee Reeder absorbs the audience into his surreal universe, complete with a rich visual palette and an immersive soundscape. Anchored by Dermot Mulroney’s brilliantly laconic lead performance, The Rambler is a seminal road movie, filled with bizarre supernatural hallucinations, shocking episodes of violence, and enough dark humor that some twisted minds may even call it a comedy. No matter how you attempt to categorize this film, you’re not likely to find anything quite like it for miles around.
Wednesday, Jan 23rd
The Look of Love
Welcome to the scandalous world of Paul Raymond, entrepreneur, impresario, and the “king of Soho.” Seeing mediocrity in the smutty sex parlors of London, Raymond unveils his first “gentleman’s club” in 1958 and gradually builds an empire of clubs and erotic magazines that brings him vast wealth while affronting British sexual mores. It also brings a litany of obscenity charges, a failed marriage, troubled children, and personal tragedy.
From a layered script by Matt Greenhalgh, Michael Winterbottom’s creative approach is energetic and inspired. Starting in black and white, the film’s aesthetic transforms over time, mirroring the cinema styles of each period (with a soundtrack that follows suit).
After struggling for years to bring Raymond’s story to the screen, Steve Coogan delivers a remarkable performance in a dramatic role sure to reframe his career. Was the man who railed against social hypocrisies simply a hypocrite himself? Coogan fully inhabits this complicated and contradictory man who seems almost tragic, invoking Oscar Wilde’s remark, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Thursday, Jan 24th
In 1999, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson turned the camera on themselves and began filming their five-year-old son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, as they started kindergarten at the prestigious Dalton School just as the private institution was committing to diversify its student body. Their cameras continued to follow both families for another 12 years as the paths of the two boys diverged—one continued private school while the other pursued a very different route through the public education system.
American Promise is an epic and groundbreaking documentary charged with the hope that every child can reach his or her full potential and contribute to a better future for our country. It calls into question commonly held assumptions about educational access and what factors really influence academic performance. Stephenson and Brewster deliver a rare, intimate, and emotional portrait of black middle-class family life, humanizing the unique journey of African-American boys as they face the real-life hurdles society poses for young men of color, inside and outside the classroom.
Thursday, Jan 24th
In 1972—long before the Internet porn explosion of today—Deep Throat became a cultural phenomenon. As the first pornographic feature film to be embraced by mainstream audiences, Deep Throat took a multitude of risks: it boasted a plot, humor, and an unknown and unlikely star named Linda Lovelace.
Lovelace tells the story behind the phenomenon. Fleeing her strict religious family, Linda Boreman falls for charismatic hustler Chuck Traynor, who launches her pornography career. Reborn as “Linda Lovelace,” the charming girl next door skyrockets to international sensation with her uncanny capacity for fellatio. Fully inhabiting this new identity, Linda becomes a spokesperson for sexual freedom and hedonism. But six years later, she reveals a far more sinister narrative—the dark secrets of her own life story.
Lovelace sizzles with honest, daring performances by Amanda Seyfried as Linda and Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck. As they demonstrated with their previous feature, 2010’s HOWL, filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Oscar-winning masters of the documentary form, have become masters of using true stories to make magical fiction.
Friday, Jan 25th
After India’s father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie, whom she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother, Evelyn. Soon after his arrival, India begins to suspect this mysterious, charming man has disturbing ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, the friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Visionary filmmaker Park Chan-Wook, whose Old Boy and Three…Extremes both played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005, returns with another macabre story, one that marks his first venture into English-language cinema. Armed with an inspired script, a world-class cast, and a wickedly playful nature, he subverts audience expectations by employing delightful visual trickery and placing a magnet over the moral compass of the film, giving complex and sympathetic motivations for the characters’ violent actions. Featuring a gasp-inducing performance from Nicole Kidman, Stoker is a haunting, Hitchcockian tale as unsettling as it is stunning.
Saturday, Jan 26th
While O. J. Simpson stands trial and a big beef brews between Tupac and Biggie, Al Jolson’s great-great-grandson Jolie Jolson reaches for a dream he will never achieve. What this white, well-to-do, magnet high school student wants with all his being is to be like the cool kids from the Maple Avenue projects. He wants to be a gangsta like Henrietta, his pregnant-with-someone-else’s-baby girlfriend on the down-low. So when Jolie makes the basketball team, he jumps for joy. In his mind, he has finally made it; he is practically black.
David Andalman’s clever dark comedy Milkshake takes aim at teen sex and racial identity during a time when Netscape was on the rise and the definition of cool morphed from big hair and skinny ties to gang tattoos and baggy pants. Acutely observed and hilariously performed, Andalman’s debut feature sheds light on a mentality that has now gone epidemic.
Saturday, Jan 26th
In 1963, the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteed all defendants facing imprisonment the right to a lawyer. Now, every year, millions of Americans facing trial rely on fewer than 15,000 public defenders, and the country’s justice system hangs in the balance. Gideon’s Army confronts this crisis head-on, tracking a group of young southern public defenders hell-bent on protecting the sanctity of human liberty.
Taut, visceral filmmaking plunges us into the unbelievably demanding lives of three fledgling public defenders in Georgia and Mississippi. Not only are they juggling hundreds of cases independently, but their offices don’t have adequate resources, and their salaries barely cover personal expenses—including six-figure law school debts.
As all three lawyers harness ingenuity, perseverance, and adrenaline to fight for their indigent clients, we wonder, How long can they keep working in a constant state of emergency? Will they find the moral support to sustain this higher calling? And if not, what happens to our democracy?
Saturday, Jan 26th
Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static—white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil.
From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes S-VHS, an all-new anthology tale of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes—a second generation with no loss of quality.
Educating the Guardians to Preserve the Totalitarian State
There is no question that Plato’s utopia in The Republic is ruled by a totalitarian government. According to Plato, in order to ensure that the polis remains “just,” only those who truly understand the meaning of the word “just” should be able to create, impose, and interpret the laws of the land, and everyone else should follow their lead. This elite class—the guardian class—is made up of philosophers like Plato. And since the guardians are all capable of reasoning, their judgments should be constant and consensual, for according to Plato’s theory of dialectics, there is only one objective truth. In order to achieve this end—to have a pool of guardians who think alike, they must be properly educated. Thus, in Plato’s ideal polis, educating the guardians is a key aspect of its totalitarian nature. Meticulously planned, this indoctrination prohibits not only the masses from receiving equal opportunity to education, but also any ideological change to take place among the ruling class.
An essay I wrote that I wanna share to ppl on twitter, but I can’t figure out where to post it but here. Sorry the format’s messed up…copied & pasted from Word.
A Puritan Prison
“My poor Aylmer…you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the world could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying” (Hawthorne 616). These are the last words of Georgiana, a character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark.” Killed by her husband Aylmer, Georgiana is a tragic character who is unfortunate enough to have been married in eighteenth century America. Nature intends her to be flawed, yet science is not the primary cause of her death. She seals her fate when she decides to marry in a time and a place where divorce is not permitted. Trapped in a psychologically straining marriage, death is her only escape. Emotionally abused by a husband who is repulsed by what nature gave her, Georgiana seeks salvation from science, aware that it can bring her happiness in two ways: death or the admiration of her husband. In “The Birthmark,” science is a mere catalyst of the death Puritan society brings upon women through illegality of divorce, objectification of women, and a flawed concept of love and marriage.
This is one of the movies that stood out in the catalog. To me, anyway. I’m familiar with Chris Crocker—known mostly for the “Leave Britany Spears Alone!” youtube hit—and I love him, so I just HAD to see this. I missed a Sundance screening that I could have seen for free simply because it conflicted with the Me @ The Zoo_ showtime. There was absolutely no way I was gonna let myself miss this.
I haven’t seen most of Chris Crocker’s videos, but I’ve seen enough to form a positive opinion of him. I was familiar with his situation—of how he lives in a very small town in the South, where everyone hates him because he’s gay. He was bullied all through middle school, so for his own safety, he skipped high school. In the documentary, Chris said that he had to be home schooled throughout his high school years, but that this was a difficult situation because his grandma, with whom he lives, had to work. In the Q&A, Chris announced that he dropped out in 8th grade, so I assume the home schooling thing didn’t really work out. Regardless, Chris Crocker remains an intelligent, creative young man with a good heart. The documentary filmmakers portrayed him as such, using clips of Chris’ videos, youtube video responses, and footage the documentarians filmed themselves.
Documentary is a tricky, often misunderstood and criticized genre. Most people assume that a documentary is supposed to be objective, which is far from the truth. Most people also believe that a documentary should be factual. Again, not exactly. Documentaries that deviate from these normatives are considered “bad” or “biased”. Well, what you actually see in a documentary is how the director him/herself views the subject, giving any documentary an obvious slant. John Grierson, one of the first filmmakers of the genre, defined the documentary film as “a creative interpretation of reality.”* Documentaries are subject to editing, subject to the director’s bias and storytelling. Werner Herzog, known for faking stuff in his documentaries, believes that his films tell the “ecstatic truth.” What’s in the final cut don’t all have to be “factual”; some scenes and dialogues can be staged so long as the filmmaker’s deeper message is delivered.
That said, Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch, directors of Me @ The Zoo_, present a favorable view of Chris Crocker. As a kid, Chris was bullied in his homophobic town, so he was forced to stay at home all day with a video camera as his only friend. Through his myspace page and youtube channel, Chris has made thousands of fans and enemies alike. His life has been threatened. Someone created a video game in which the user can physically abuse a cartoon Chris Crocker, and no doubt, thousands have played it. Chris, who has always dreamed of being a celebrity, embraced his gaining popularity and exploited it as he took on the ridiculous personas his critics have characterized him as. For example, he took the obsessed Britany Spears fan to a new level, recording a video of himself saying the now infamous statement: “Britany Spears is a natural treasure. Who cares about 9/11?” To me, this was obviously a joke—an exaggeration, one of the many 9/11 jokes created since it was no longer “too soon” to make fun of the historic event. Chris’ timing, uploading the video on the anniversary of 9/11, might be considered tasteless, but it was a joke nonetheless, and ppl like me laugh at things like that. Chris’ mom is an Iraq War vet, and he has so much love and respect for her that anyone who knows this would know Chris was just being a controversial comic.**
In the Q&A, Chris admitted that he shouldn’t have created the 9/11 video. It went viral, and he lost many fans as a result. I guess most ppl just don’t have Chris’ humor (and mine). The Chris that I saw in the Q&A corroborated the directors’ characterization. Chris IS a nice guy. Chris IS very self-aware. Chris IS very witty. Chris IS intelligent. He makes a living out of his popularity, even though he’s not too relevant anymore. But the present Chris is a lot more mature than the Chris who became an internet celebrity. He won’t ever do another offensive 9/11 video. He wants to go back to school and he wants to help LGBT youth who face the similar bullying he suffered as a kid.
I loved this movie and I gave it the highest rating in the audience ballot. HBO picked up the film and will show it in the spring. If you have HBO, make sure to watch it. 5/5 stars
*With this definition, many fictional films can be considered “documentaries.” A friend once described John Carpenter’s They Live as a “good documentary.” I agreed. :)
**I’m not saying 9/11 was connected to Saddam in anyway. But certainly, 9/11 made Bush’s Iraq War possible.