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Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views


February 07, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Dirty Wars

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 10.43.08 AMThis week in movies you missed: We reach the end of this year's Oscar-nominated documentaries. Those are The Act of Killing, The Square, Cutie and the Boxer, 20 Feet From Stardom (which doesn't qualify as an MYM) and now this documentary about covert U.S. counterterrorism efforts from director Richard Rowley and journalist Jeremy Scahill.

What You Missed

Maverick war correspondent Jeremy Scahill (of the Nation) is hanging around Kabul, getting sick of reporting on canned news from the war zone. He heads out to rural Gardez, where a family tells him a harrowing story of the "American Taliban" soldiers who raided a celebration and killed several of them, including pregnant women.

Scahill starts digging into the evidence to find out who's responsible for this mistaken attack on Afghan civilians — and for covering it up. He learns about the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the elite unit that would later become famous for killing Osama bin Laden.

Scahill tries to return to his normal life in Brooklyn, but he just can't let the story go. He ends up traveling from Yemen to Somalia in search of victims of this covert U.S. counterterrorist effort, and meets with a Deep Throat-type informant who suggests that JSOC is actually creating more new terrorists than it eliminates.

All the while, our hero gets more and more scruffy and haggard, his eyes haunted by the specters of bereaved children and grieving parents. His attempts to speak truth to power net him lots of talk-show appearances, but little attention from Congress.

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February 03, 2014

What I'm Watching: 'Heathers'

Teenage suicide. Don't do it.

One career ago, I was a professor of film studies. I gave that up to move to Vermont and write for Seven Days, but movies will always be my first love. In this feature, published occasionally here on Live Culture, I'll write about the films I'm currently watching, and connect them to film history and art.

When the fondly remembered cult film Heathers was released in 1988, I was only a year or two younger than its main characters, who are high school juniors and seniors. My friends and I loved it and talked about it often — especially when cable and dear old VHS gave us the chance to watch it again and again. And even though our own high school afforded us unlimited opportunities to observe the cruelty of the Popular Kids and the thoughtless acts engendered by cliquishness (the film’s chief satirical targets), I can say with certainty that, still, we didn’t fully “get” Heathers.

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January 31, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Cutie and the Boxer

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 12.34.26 PMThis week in movies you missed: We continue with the current Oscar nominees for Best Documentary. When I'm done viewing them, I'll predict the winner.

But I can already award the Most Memorable Title award to Cutie and the Boxer, Zachary Heinzerling's study of the 40-year marriage of two artists. (Trailer is here.)

What You Missed

Eighty-year-old Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko, live in a sprawling living/studio space in Brooklyn. He has been creating ferocious neo-Dadaist art — including canvases that he attacks with paint-covered boxing gloves, hence the nickname — since his angry-young-man days in Japan. She draws wry cartoons about their turbulent relationship and grumbles about being in his shadow.

Together, they worry about making the rent. For all Ushio's '60s celebrity — the Guggenheim is considering acquiring one of his boxing paintings — money is tight.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Cutie and the Boxer" »

January 24, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: The Square

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 10.03.54 AMThis week in movies you missed: It's pre-Oscars month! Let's talk about some nominees that never reached our theaters.

That includes all but one of the potential Best Documentaries: The Act of Killing (my review here), Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars and this week's MYM, The Square. (The fifth nominee, 20 Feet From Stardom, played at the Roxy and Savoy.)

What You Missed

You already know the story, or maybe you half-know it from chaotic footage on CNN and YouTube. In early 2011, activists filled Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest the military-backed rule of president Hosni Mubarak. He was forced to step down, to be replaced in 2012 by elected Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, who was in turn ousted last summer after liberal demonstrators protested his abuses of power.

That's where this documentary from Jehane Noujaim (The Control Room) stops, but the story is, of course, far from over.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Square" »

January 17, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Paradise: Love

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 10.03.51 AMNext week I'll start reviewing some Movies You (probably) Missed that just received Oscar nominations. Meanwhile...

This week in movies you missed: A middle-aged Austrian frau tries sex tourism.

What You Missed

Fifty-year-old divorcee Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) says goodbye to her teenage daughter and leaves her bleak apartment in Vienna for a sunny Kenyan vacation.

She finds herself in a sterile beach resort with armed guards protecting her from the populace. Her friend from home (Inge Maux) tells Teresa that great opportunities lie beyond the fences — namely, handsome young men who are eager to find European "sugar mamas."

Unlike her friend, Teresa hates the idea of paying for sex; what she seeks is a man who will look her straight in the eyes. After an awkward false start, she finds a young Kenyan named Munga (Peter Kazungu) who will interact with her like a lover and not a prostitute. Or so she thinks, until he starts asking for money.

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January 13, 2014

Director Werner Herzog's Latest Film Is a Vermont Exclusive

UPDATES BELOW: 12/26/13 & 1/14/13

Though the semester is nearly over, a film class at the University of Vermont has welcomed a new student: acclaimed director Werner Herzog.

Herzog, who has been making films since the early 1960s and is best known for his films Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, has been an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College for the past semester, working with students and speaking at public screenings of his films.

UVM professor Peter Gruner Shellenberger, a visiting lecturer in film and photography, recently took some students in one of his filmmaking classes to Hanover to hear Herzog speak about his films. Shellenberger brought to the event a vintage Super-8 camera, preloaded with film and, at the Q&A session, asked Herzog if he would use the camera to make a film for the UVM students.

To Shellenberger's surprise, Herzog agreed.

"Did I think he would do this?" asks Shellenberger rhetorically. "Never in a million years. But, then, there’s a part of me that maybe knew that he would be open to it," he adds, referring to Herzog's reputation for unusual film projects.

Two weeks after giving Herzog the camera, Shellenberger received it in the mail, with a roll of unexposed film still inside it. Herzog also included a few unusual conditions:

What should happen is the following: please develop the film and hand it over to your students. My demand is the following: they have to make films, collectively or individually, which should include my footage. Obviously, they do not need to take everything, nor in the order I filmed the material.

The title of their film/films has to be WHERE’S DA PARTY AT?

In my footage this appears in one of the graffiti, and at least this portion of the text should appear in the film, or all the films.

Continue reading "Director Werner Herzog's Latest Film Is a Vermont Exclusive" »

January 10, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Blackfish

Blackfish_Dogwoof_Documentary_7_1600_900_85This week in movies you missed: Scientists call it orca. Native Americans call it blackfish. SeaWorld calls it Shamu.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Oscar-shortlisted documentary argues that we should treat the killer whale with more respect. The result: a raft of performers have canceled their SeaWorld appearances. (Today, for instance, Trace Adkins.)

What You Missed

In 2010, an experienced trainer named Dawn Brancheau was killed by an orca named Tilikum during a SeaWorld show. Nearly 20 years earlier, the same whale (according to some witnesses) had drowned a trainer at his original home in a British Columbia sea park. Tilikum is also considered responsible for the death of a disturbed man who decided to "swim with the whales" at SeaWorld in 1999.

Trainer carelessness? Psychotic animal? Or proof that orcas don't belong in captivity?

Blackfish strongly takes the third position. Its stance is summed up by one interviewee's soundbite: "If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?"

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January 03, 2014

Movies You Missed & More: Berberian Sound Studio

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 9.36.37 AMThis week in movies you missed: You've seen the "art of horror." Now hear the sound of horror.

What You Missed

Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a meek British sound engineer known for his work on nature and children's programs, has been hired to mix a brutal Italian horror flick in the Dario Argento vein.

He's way out of his depth at the Italian studio. The pompous producer (Cosimo Fusco) and lecherous director (Antonio Mancini) roll their eyes at Gilderoy's shyness and squeamishness. The secretary gives him the runaround when he tries to get his expenses reimbursed. And he just can't get used to the bearded Foley artists, known as Massimo and Massimo, who smash melons to approximate smashing heads.

Surrounded by the sounds of mayhem, Gilderoy starts to imagine himself the savior of a young actress doing ADR (Fatma Mohamed) who clashes with the producer over the volume of her screams.

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December 20, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Tower

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 5.29.43 PMThis week in movies you missed: Have we got a Christmas movie for you! Celebrate the season in Korea on "108 stories of terror."

What You Missed

Christmas is coming to the luxury residential skyscraper complex of Tower Sky in Seoul, and its owners have planned a party to end all parties. VIPs will fill the lobby, and helicopters will fly overhead and shower snow on passersby.

No one heeds a warning about dangerous air currents, nor does anyone care that the building's sprinkler system is screwed up, because this is a disaster flick.

Anyway, everyone's busy living out his or her own mini-soap. Building manager Dae-ho (Sang-kyung Kim) is a single dad trying to find a way to smuggle his adorable moppet into the party and tell his crush (Ye-jin Son) that he likes her. The "legendary" local fire chief (Kyung-gu Sol) has promised his wife that he'll spend Christmas Eve with her. About a dozen other characters I've already half-forgotten have their own dramas.

The only question is, who will live and who will die when Tower Sky inevitably goes up in flames?

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December 13, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 12.02.04 AMThis week in movies you missed: Michael Cera plays against type in the indie movie with the year's best title, hands down (though Netflix just calls it Crystal Fairy).

What You Missed

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) who led a charmed life of doodling in her journal and accruing good karma with random acts of kindness. Then she took a trip to Chile, where she met her nemesis, the Pollo Loco.

Actually, his real name was Jamie (Cera), and he was an American tourist like Crystal Fairy. When they met at a party, he told her he was on a mission to consume as many hallucinogens as possible, specifically a cactus fabled to grow in a small rural town.

Crystal Fairy was totally down with ascending to a higher plane of consciousness, especially in 2012, the end of the material world as we know it. So when Jamie suggested she meet up in the boonies with him and his three Chilean friends (Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva and Agustín Silva), she did just that.

Only then Jamie did a 180 and started acting like a control-freak douche-nozzle. He ordered his three friends around, he pretended he'd never invited Crystal Fairy on the trip, and he pursued his magical cactus with the aggressive humorlessness of a businessman demanding the right amount of foam on his latte.

That's when he got his nickname — and Crystal Fairy set out to teach him how somebody really seeks enlightenment.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012" »

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