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DC Film Beat: Metro Area Cinema for 28 February – 6 March

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The Academy Awards are (finally) over, and now that Flavor of the Month The Artist has won Oscar gold (more on this HERE), the world can start spinning again.  That said, this column begins by spotlighting two films that the Academy saw fit to honor, and I know: how can I start cheerleading after weeks of whinging about the undue pervasion of Oscar culture?  It’s not hypocrisy, I promise; both films are foreign, and foreign fare needs a bigger push in this country, no matter how much Oscar Hype they carry.

At the Bethesda Row Landmark: The Polish entry of the Best Foreign Film nominees, director Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness.  While I haven’t seen the picture yet, I confess a slight resistance.  In Darkness deals with Poland’s WWII past, and it seems a year doesn’t go by where at least one of the foreign nominees doesn’t focus on WWII atrocities.  The soul can only take so much, but I’ll give Holland the benefit of the doubt, considering she directed the wonderful Europa, Europa.

I have no such reservations about recommending A Separation, which is playing at both the Bethesda Row and E Street Landmarks.  The film won the Best Foreign Film statue, and it has received rapturous praise.  From what I gather, what makes director Asghar Farhadi’s drama so potent is that it undercurrents (yep, you read that right: I just made “undercurrents” a verb) the newsworthy Iranian political conflicts in favor of a spare, wrenching tale that studies marriage policies in contemporary Iran.

For more information on either movie, click HERE.

The West End Cinema gets my Pick of the Week: beginning Friday, it begins screening We Need to Talk about Kevin.  If you’ve never seen one of director Lynne Ramsay’s films before (Morvern Caller is where I’d start), you might not be prepared for the mix of nontraditional narrative on display; even those familiar with the Lionel Shriver novel may find themselves surprised.  Ramsay takes a cliché (trying to unravel what set a teenager on a Columbine-esque killing spree) and turns it into the stuff of nightmares—We Need to Talk about Kevin is viscerally experimental in its use of subjective filmmaking.  Tilda Swinton gives one of 2011’s great performances as Kevin’s mother, a woman unsure if her questionable parenting choices created a monster or if her son was cursed from inception.  A masterpiece.

Head on HERE for further details.

We’ll end the week with the AFI Silver’s “Things to Come: The City Imagined on Film” series.  The programming slate is an alarmist’s wet dream; you will find no better a record of the best (worst?) in dystopian futures. Jacques Tati’s great Play Time offers a slightly less bleak take on the matter.  Tati uses his iconic M. Hulot character to demonstrate the tension between the rapidly antiquated past and an ultra-sleek modern cityscape, and the film contains some of Tati’s most inspired gags.  Plus, Play Time really only works (as critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has stressed) on a big screen that can take advantage of Tati’s spatially innovative framing, so seeing it at the AFI is a must.

Much darker is Brazil.  A wild mix between 1984 and Monty Python’s Flying Circus (no surprise, considering that ex-Python Terry Gilliam directed it); it follows meek bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce, in the performance of a lifetime) as he tries to find love and personal freedom in a society that has virtually outlawed the two.  As is standard with Gilliam’s works, Brazil‘s visual invention and wit (the latter coming from Tom Stoppard’s script) only just overcome the picture’s pacing concerns and abundance of undeveloped conceits.  Still, Brazil looks eerily prescient in today’s post-9/11 world, and the ending is a wonder—it ekes out joy from the blackest despair.

Learn more about the AFI HERE.

This weekend: John Carter, which is rumored to be the most expensive movie ever made, opens in theaters.  They say it cost in excess of $400 million, a figure that puts me at a loss; how could it possibly cost $400 million to show how Samuel L. Jackson’s “Coach Carter” got his first name?