MORE BLOGS: Off Message (News & Politics) | Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views

Movies You Missed

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.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Dirty Wars" »

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.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Paradise: Love" »

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?"

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Blackfish" »

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.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Berberian Sound Studio" »

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?

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

December 06, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Stories We Tell

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 12.58.54 PMThis week in movies you missed: A movie star airs her family's dirty laundry on film.

Thing is, the star in question is Canadian — not to mention the talented director of Away From Her and Take This Waltz. So Sarah Polley's documentary is considerably more tasteful and thoughtful than my initial description makes it sound.

What You Missed

A young woman ushers an older man into a recording studio and asks him to read a lengthy narrative he's prepared. We soon learn this is Polley and her dad, British-born actor Michael Polley. Most of the other interviewees we see her settling in front of the camera are members or friends of her Toronto family, too.

These interviewees begin to talk — mostly about Diane Polley, the director's deceased mother. A gorgeous, vivacious, larger-than-life woman, Diane made headlines in the '60s, when she and Michael appeared together on stage. We see her in real Super 8 footage, and then recreated in fake Super 8 footage by actress Rebecca Jenkins. Meanwhile, the interviews begin to hint at a family secret to be revealed.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Stories We Tell" »

November 29, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Computer Chess

569This week in movies you missed: It's 1980 all over again in this period piece from mumblecore mainstay Andrew Bujalski, who shot it on vintage black-and-white analog video for a painfully authentic look.

What You Missed

Programmers from the nation's top tech schools have converged on an unassuming hotel for their annual computer-chess tournament, in which the computers play each other.

The winner gets to square off with a self-satisfied human chess master (played by film critic Gerald Peary) who has made a bet that no computer will best him for a decade. (In fact, it took until 1997 for IBM's Big Blue to score a fairly decisive victory over a human chess master.)

Meanwhile, a '70s-style encounter group composed of middle-aged couples roams the halls, trying to enlist some of the nerds for birthing rituals and swingin' sex. Grad student Peter (Patrick Riester) despairs of his software, which appears to be trying to commit suicide rather than beat its opponents. Mysterious freelance programmer Mike Papageorge (Myles Paige) can't find a room. And all the programmers are bemused and fascinated by the sole female geek in their midst (Robin Schwartz).

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Computer Chess" »

November 15, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 10.37.28 AMThis week in movies you missed: This very night, Seven Days is calling all Achievers to a party at Champlain Lanes called the Big LeBOWLski.

In honor of the event, I watched this 2009 documentary about The Big Lebowski fan phenomenon.

What You Missed

In 1998, Joel and Ethan Coen put out a movie called The Big Lebowski, a shaggy-dog story involving crime, bowling, White Russians and rugs that really pull the room together. It was not one of their hits.

Over the years, certain people discovered The Big Lebowski on video and started quoting it. Obsessively. They found one another on internet forums and began calling themselves "Achievers," after the "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers" briefly referenced in the movie. They got together at bowling alleys to celebrate their fandom like a more mellow version of Trekkies.

So was born the first Lebowski Fest, in Louisville, Ky., in 2002. Today, it happens all over the nation and the world. Eddie Chung's documentary takes us to several Lebowski Fests, including an LA event where star Jeff Bridges showed up to perform and mingle with fans (wearing his jellies, of course).

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans" »

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684