Escape from Tomorrow at the Little, October 26: Jenn and I went to see this because the description sounded interesting enough: it's about a man who goes with his family to Disney World and his life is thrown into turmoil; the kicker being it was filmed at Disney without permission. Well, it would have been an okay movie if it hadn't had arbitrary plot twists and red herrings all over it. It starts out pretty strong but quickly degrades into an incomprehensible mess.
Inequality for All at the Little, October 30: Jenn and I saw this essay film about inequality in American finances. Not just "some people earn more" kind of inequality, but "400 people earn as much as everybody else combined" kind of inequality (really.) It's ostensibly a documentary that gives former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich the ability to explain things from an economists perspective. On the one hand, it's an eye-opening and engaging film, but on the other, it preaches the "business-as-usual" mindset where a strong middle class buys like crazy to keep the economy chugging along to everyone's supposed benefit. But do we really need all that stuff? Maybe the economy can work if a robust middle class was socially conditioned to buy quality, durable products made by workers earning a living with their wages rather than to buy as much of the cheapest slave-labor-produced products one can get jeir hands on.
The Intruder at the Dryden, November 1: This is a brilliant film on the dangers of mob mentality and how easy it is to coerce a mob during a revolution: a rabble-rouser heads to a small town in the south to start a counter-revolution to school desegregation. And it was created by Roger Corman and his brother, Gene at peril to the cast and crew: it was filmed in the south during desegregation (and perhaps, as mentioned by Lori Donnelly at the Eastman House, the only film about the Civil Rights Movement shot during the Civil Rights Movement.) It's a film well-worth checking out.
Let the Fire Burn at the Little, November 12: An impressive document of the misguided actions of the Philadelphia government and police against the MOVE organization that led to them bombing and burning a house in 1985 containing 13 members, eleven of whom perished. Read more in my blog post about it.
Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus at the Little, November 13: This one is about a guy who's a kind-of unlikeable drug thrill-seeker who meets girl who's a kind-of unlikeable modern hippie and they go with three Chilean guys (whose personalities are not nearly as well defined) to partake of a cactus-based mind-altering concoction. Jenn and I went together and, when prompted what I thought of it, I said "it was okay." I stand by that: it's an okay movie. There is some redeeming quality to it, but it's not perfect … you know: "okay".
The Light in the Dark at the Dryden, November 19: Philip Carli spent a significant portion of his introduction trying to set our expectations low enough for this film. It was indeed historically interesting: the fourth and last film made with a not-so-talented actress-as-producer, with not one director signing on for a second film. It's about a fairly pretty (maybe very pretty in 1922, I'd hope) down-on-her-luck woman whose luck turns when a rich woman hits her with her car then takes her in. (Way to go pronouns!) As Carli mentioned, the cinematography is particularly good — and I'm inclined to agree. Also, this restores more than half the footage cut for (apparently) a tale of the Holy Grail. And it's got Lon Chaney, so there's him to watch too. Overall, it's not very good, but historically interesting.
The Internet Cat Video Film Festival 2012 at the Dryden, November 22: I begged Jenn to go see this with the promise we could leave if it wasn't very good. My intention was nefarious: I wanted to see if it was as worthy of the derision I wished to inflict on it. And, well, kind of. It is, indeed, a curated set of clips of funny cat videos from the Internet (see the article at Know Your Meme for a little more information). The selection standards fortunately excluded clips that were extraordinarily low quality, and the clips were, generally, amusing. But really? Clips from the Internet? And comments like that squarely make me one of the fuddy-duddies who deride a new form of entertainment solely because it's new. This is, in essence, a wholly new form of creating short films, although the "new" aspect has to do with sheer quantity: a huge percentage of people now have access to a video camera, and many like to take video of their pets, so it's just a matter of waiting before someone captures something clever. Does that warrant a film festival? (Eh, maybe too soon.) How about two screenings at Dryden Theatre of the world-renowned George Eastman House? And two more for the 2013 festival? I don't know — I don't think so. It all seems like a way to make money since it's amateur, accessible, and popular. (Oh, and we did leave early, so technically this one should count as half.)
Kill Your Darlings at the Little, November 26: Jenn and I decided to see this before we realized "Enough Said" closed that night. The film is quite good — probably more so because I know little of the life of Allen Ginsberg as it's often the mistake made and liberties taken about a familiar subject that distract us from a story. So to go back a sentence: it's about the early life of Allen Ginsberg as he went to Columbia University and met Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. And how his homosexuality blossomed, and how a seldom-mentioned murder surrounded that group of friends. In all it's a captivating story and worth checking out perhaps because you also know little of Ginsberg's life. Or you want to try to unequivocally destroy a connection between Daniel Radcliffe and Harry Potter.
Philomena at the Little, November 27: Jenn and I wanted to see another film, but decided to check this out as an alternative. As it turns out, it was an interesting story and an enjoyable film. Judy Dench is fantastic and Steve Coogan holds his own pretty well at her side. It may help that it's based on a true story, so frequently that lends a bit of realistic serendipity to what can so rarely be written in fiction.
Piranha at the Dryden, December 7: I saw this a long time ago on TV and, perhaps rightfully, didn't give it much respect. But in deliberately watching it on equal footing with any other film, it's really quite passable. The pace is brisk, the plot was interesting in its own cautionary alarmist way, and the acting was adequate to the task. It's not high-art, but a perfectly adequate example of a Jaws-era terror flick.
Blue Jasmine at the Little, September 11: I'm no sycophant for Woody Allen, and I find his films distinctly big-hit and big-miss, but damn, Blue Jasmine is genius. It broaches an incredibly challenging subject: humans are ill-equipped to deal with the infinite possibilities of choice we have in the world today. It centers on Jasmine who is a hot mess after she loses everything her life once was — a nearly absurd life of incredible wealth and jet-setting with her husband — to move in with her step-sister living in near-poverty we call "middle class". Jasmine is an unlikeable nutcase for whom Allen carefully sketches so (while staying wholly unlikeable) we learn enough about to at least be sympathetic.
City Girl at the Dryden, September 24: I greatly enjoyed this tale of city girl/country boy romance that revolved around some incredibly well-formed characters. What with being among the last silent films ever made, it is certainly a testament to the advanced story-telling possible with the movie camera.
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel at the Dryden, October 3: A rather gushing documentary about Roger Corman (arguably, deservedly so.) He seemed like a nice enough guy who got into making inexpensive, successful movies and launching the careers of numerous now-famous actors and directors.
A Bucket of Blood at the Dryden, October 3: A really quote good film from the 1950's about a lousy artist who gains admiration when he presents a clay cat. The film is a condemnation of bottom-tier, classist art-culture where an undefined thing called "art"—and recognition of said art—is revered at the expense of all else.
16 Photographs At Ohrdruf at the Little, October 6: Despite the Little's complete apathy (grrr … not even mentioned on the website), I found out about this film through Jenn who knew the filmmaker. Matthew Nash's grandfather took 16 photographs when the U.S. Army discovered the Nazi concentration camp at Ohrdruf. It was the first camp discovered by the U.S., following legends of camps after the Russians found Auschwitz earlier the same year, and the only camp visited by President Eisenhower. Yet it's not a name well-known. Anyway, Nash interviews some former GI's who were in the same division as his grandfather and paints a personal picture of what it was like to witness the Nazi atrocities. I have a very hard time emotionally connecting to the true horror of the Holocaust (since she sheer scale is impossible for me to comprehend) but these personal tales made it that much more real to me.
The Way, Way Back at the Cinema, October 8: I was skeptical but saw good reviews, and Jenn moderately wanted to see it as well. In all, it's a really nice coming-of-age story. At first I found some of the characters a bit grating, or played too broadly, but in the end it all seemed adequately realistic and touching.
In A World… at the Cinema, October 8: Ok, this one counts as half. I persevered for the second film in the double-feature and actually wanted to see it … pretty much only because of watching too many "Honest Trailers" by ScreenJunkies on YouTube. The gist is that Don LaFontaine was the guy who popularized the phrase "in a world…" as the way to begin nearly every movie trailer for decades. He's a real guy who really did die in 2008. So the film is a fictional account of Carol—the daughter of a voiceover artist gifted similarly to LaFontaine—who wants to break into the world of voiceovers, particularly for film trailers, and become the next LaFontaine. It's written and directed by Lake Bell who also stars as Carol. I found that every single character was written as a shrill fast-talker no matter their age, gender, or background. It was insufferable, and the cheap writing continued: pivotal plot points hinged on unrealistically stupid coincidences. For instance, Carol can't get a date with the guy who has a crush on her ("Mary Sue" much?) because someone interrupts her cell phone call and he's confused about who she's talking to. Just dumb, lazy writing. I left when her sister's boyfriend finds the [telegraphed] evidence he didn't want to know. That's when my refills of popcorn and "Arnold Palmer" ran out and I left. (And I should point out that the film is doing very very well in reviewer circles like RottenTomatoes: is everyone blinded by Bell's "brave" choice to consider women for voiceover work? Her point is certainly valid, but just because she's among a mostly-male group of writer/director/stars doesn't mean I'm going to grade her writing quality any less stringently.)
Elmer Gantry at the Dryden, October 9: I kind of love the tale of a charismatic sociopath. I couldn't help make a comparison to A Face in the Crowd which I saw last year since I enjoyed that story a lot. This one was a little more subtle, but its steady pace revealed a desperate man. A slimy salesman becomes a preacher for a traveling evangelical group, firstly for his own gains. Glimpses of compassion in him may be genuine and may be calculated, but nonetheless allowed me to empathize with him.
X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes at the Dryden, October 10: Roger Corman directed this tale of a man who gives himself the ability to see through solid matter: a change that gradually increases in strength. It starts as scientific curiosity, and he exploits it largely for good, but by the time all of the world is invisible to him, it essentially drives him mad. The story is solid, and overall worth watching, but by no means a masterpiece.
The Vampire at the Dryden, October 22: This was the first of a pair of related silent films shown. The titular "vampire" is not a bloodsucker, but a woman who preys on men who are attracted to her. It tells the tale of a small-town farmer trying his hand at big-city life, only to fall for the lure of one such woman. It has a steady pacing and tells an interesting story. Among the interesting notes is the use of title cards to introduce action and events — apparently early filmmakers were not ready to rely on narrative structure alone at this time. Another interesting element is that the production company saved money by building sets outdoors and using natural light, yielding some bizarrely breezy interiors.
As in a Looking Glass at the Dryden, October 22: This one should count as half as well since tiredness got the best of me and I wasn't able to stick with the film for its short duration. What I can say is the story is not unlike "The Vampire", but told from the perspective of a woman who falls into the trap of living off men who are attracted to her. I recall it had some unusual structures that weren't clear: cuts to what may have been a second storyline, or an abstract alternative.