Tuesday, September 13, 2005

the preantepenultimane batch

MARY Italy/USA, Visions North American Premiere

Written and Directed
by Abel Ferrara

If there was ever a heartfelt plea for censorship and intolerance in recent years, it's this film. It's the revenge of the Orthodox against the heretics. Those who would question Christianity precisely as it has been taught must be punished, and will. That's the message of this sad little film.

Tony Childress(Matthew Modine) casts himself as Jesus Christ in a movie version of some of the gnostic gospels discovered in Egypt in 1945. In it, Marie Palesi (Juliette Binoche) playing Mary Magdalene, explains secret knowledge given to her by JC, much to the shock and horror of some of the other disciples. Playing Mary has given Marie religion, and rather than return to the 'States, she goes to Israel, where the filmmaker shows constant pictures of dying Palestinians.

Meanwhile, superstar network journalist Ted Younger (Forest Whitaker) is doing a series on “the real Jesus.” We already know about the real Jesus from the Gospels, there's no other way to go. Thus he must be severely punished by God. This happens when Jesus sends Ted's wife (Heather Graham) to the hospital with severe labor complications. When this happens he's interviewing a Jewish theologian who explains why the Jews killed Jesus. At first he likes Tony's film, but turns against it at Jesus' behest.

Ted is made to be an evil monster who demeans God for the sake of mammon. A genuine villain, and the protesters are deemed right. Censorship and intolerance of others views are celebrated and this is genuinely horrid. If you're tempted to see this crock of shit, take a deep breath and rent “Dogma” instead. You have been warned.

BEE SEASON, USA, Special Presentations World Premiere

Directed by Scott McGehee
and David Siegel

There's a tale in the Midrash that before God created the heavens and the earth, he created the Hebrew alphabet. For thousands of years, among both Jew and Gentile, the letters have been held to be receptacles of kind of magic.

Saul Naumann(Richard Gere) knows this all too well. A college professor in theology, he's been studying and teaching the Kabbala for years. He lives in Oakland with his biologist wife Miriam(Juliette Binoche), daughter Eliza(Flora Cross) and her older brother Aaron(Max Minghella). At first, they seem happy enough, each are overachievers to some extent and they're full of love….but then something happens.

Eliza wins a spelling bee. The school then enters her in the San Francisco area bee, but Saul didn't see the envelope among his many papers, so, she asks Aaron to take her. She wins that, too, and they go and tell Saul, who of course is thrilled. However, Aaron, who was the favorite, has lost some status, and he begins a search for God. Mom has been searching or God too, but in her own way.

Meanwhile, after some interrogation, Saul comes to believe that Eliza has the gift to become a master cabbalist at the tender age of eleven. This drives her brother away and maybe drives her mother mad. It's an extremely strange movie, which is highlighted with really good performances and some spectacular computer animation. The words fly off the page, so to speak, in more ways than one. It's very bizarre, and perhaps even worth the money for a ticket.

MISTRESS OF SPICES (United Kingdom),

Written and Directed by
Paul Mayeda Berges

The good Witch of Oakland, California is a beautiful woman named Til(Aishwarya Rai), who has imprisoned herself in a spice emporium as part of her vow to both rule and serve the vegetable powers of that inhabit the spices that she sells to the local hoi palloi. She also cannot use her magic powers to help herself or even touch another person's skin. If she breaks the rules, the spices will turn against her.

People come to her for advice and recipies and to have a white spell or two cast. All is going very well until she catches the eyes of an architect named Doug(Dylan McDermott). The war between the animal and vegetable powers has begun. Will the power of love overpower that of broccoli? Of course it does, but in this as in many another case, this is as silly as it is enjoyable, which is a great deal.


Written and Directed
by Noah Baumbach

The breakup of a marriage is something that has fascinated literary types for many a century, and like the beasts in the title, the two participants frequently fight to the death. The question is which is the squid and which is the whale. We're never actually sure.

This is also a tale about ambiguity and pretentiousness. Bernard(Jeff Daniels) and Joan(Laura Linney) have been married for going on twenty years. He's a famous writer, and she's about to become one. They've got two kids, Walt(Jesse Eisenberg) being in the latter part of high school and Frank(Owen Kline) about enter it.

All of the above quartet are highly intelligent morons. If you look up the word “arrogant” you would find Bernard's picture. We soon find out that Joan has been cheating on Bernard for a few years. The kids find out about it as the parents complain about each other. Soon they're separated and making the extreme effort to turn the kids against the other parent. This, to some extent actually works. Not only do the two brothers turn against one of the parents, it drives young Frank to drink and sexual deviancy.

Meanwhile, Bernard starts shacking up with one of his students(Anna Paquin) and Joan starts going out with a local tennis pro(William Baldwin), who's also Frank's tennis instructor. This makes things worse.

This is one of those movies that's like a train wreck. It's horrifying, but you can't take your eyes off of it. It's not what you'd call enterainment, although it has some really good performances and is morally instructive.
However, it's not really worth the money.

NEVERWAS- World Premiere - Special Presentations

Written and Directed by
Joshua Michael Stern

Once upon a time, long, long ago. There was a boy named Christopher Robin. His father wrote a beloved fantasy book for children about him, and thus ruined poor C.R. Milne's life forever.

When Zachary Pierson(Ryan Drescher) was a little boy, his father, T.L. Pierson (Nick Nolte) wrote and illustrated a series of books on a magical place called Neverwas before they took him away to the looney bin. His death was one of those things that can ruin a kid's life, so he took his mother's maiden name as his own and when we meet Dr. Zach Riley (Aaron Eckhart) again, he's all grown up and a psychiatrist to boot, arriving at the hospital where his father spent most of his last years in order to help clean the place up and find out what exactly happened with his old man, something his mother
(Jessica Lange) heartally disapproves of. His new boss(William Hurt)
wouldn't have approved either.

But there are forces out there lying in wait for our hero. Maggie Paige (Brittany Murphy), an old friend from childhood, is a big fan of his father's books and is surreptitiously working on an article on the late TL. Also, is one Gabriel Finch (Ian McKellen) an inmate at the hospital who also has a fixation on T. L's books, but for slightly different reasons…

This is perfect material for someone like Terry Gilliam and is the film he probably should have made instead of “Tideland” or the “Brothers Grimm.” This is lots of fun as well as deep, and the characters are ones we can identify with. The acting is wonderful, Eckhart and McKellan give one of their best performances. Gandof lives, and it's here. This is worth seeing twice.


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