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The Film Society of Minneapolis and St. Paul has released a sampling of films screening at this year's International Film Festival, running April 3-19. The offerings include films presented at the Berlin, Toronto, Sundance and New York film festivals. Name attractions include Ingmar Bergman, Cesar Chavez and Steve Coogan, with food-and future-themed programs and a robust selection of documentaries. Tere are some of the confirmed titles.
Club Sandwich (Dir. Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico, 2013) Single mother Paloma and her 15-year-old son Hector have a very close relationship, until the duo decide to take a trip to a beachside resort where Hector meets 16-year-old Jazmin. Paloma finds herself competing for her son’s attention in awkward but often hilarious ways. Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke’s third feature takes a deadpan comedic spin on the coming-of-age story as a son learns to explore beyond his safe zone and, more importantly, a mother learns to let go.
Cesar’s Last Fast (Dirs. Richard Ray Perez, Lorena Parlee; USA, 2014)
In 1988, Cesar Chavez embarked on what would be his last act of protest. Driven in part to pay penance for feeling he had not done enough, Chavez began his “Fast for Life,” a 36-day wateronly hunger strike, to draw attention to the horrific effects of unfettered pesticide use on farm workers, their families, and their communities. Using never-before-seen footage, directors Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee weave together the larger story of Chavez’s life, vision, and legacy into an inspiring and moving portrait.
Le Chef (Dir. Daniel Cohen, France/Spain, 2012)
Riffing on haute-cuisine pretentions, this kitchen comedy uses the irresistible talents of Jean Reno and Michael Youn to play Alexandre and Jacky, a veteran chef and a self-trained cook. Alexandre’s three-star restaurant Cargo Lagarde risks a downgrade in the Michelin Guide unless he gets hip with the new trends in cooking, including molecular gastronomy. Jacky, down on his luck but itching to cook, may just be the guy to help him out.
Trip to Italy (Dir. Michael Winterbottom, USA, 2014)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back in this witty and incisive follow-up to "The Trip" that reunites the pair for a new culinary road trip where they indulge in more nosh and more sparkling banter. They ponder subjects as varied as Batman’s vocal register, the artistic merits of “Jagged Little Pill,” and, of course, the virtue of sequels.
Web Junkie (Dirs. Shosh Shlam, Hilla Medalia; Israel, China; 2013)
While many countries have acknowledged obsessive Internet use as a serious social issue, China is the first country to label “Internet addiction” a clinical disorder. This film takes an intimate look inside a Beijing rehab center where Chinese teenagers are “deprogrammed.” Focusing on three teens, their parents and the health professionals determined to help them kick their habit, it becomes very clear that systems of evaluation and curing are less than definitive.
Google & the World Brain (Dir. Ben Lewis; UK, Spain, Germany; 2013)
Documentary filmmaker Ben Lewis takes a look at one of the most ambitious but also controversial projects ever conceived on the Internet. In 2002 Google began scanning millions of books in an effort to create a giant global library, containing every book in existence. Purportedly, they also had an even greater purpose: to create a higher form of intelligence, something that H.G. Wells had predicted in his 1937 essay "World Brain." However, issues of commerce and copyright have created an army of dissenters against Google’s plans.
The Starfish Throwers (Dir. Jesse Roesler, USA/India, 2014) This documentary explores how three compassionate individuals struggle to restore hope to the hopeless in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways. Continents apart, a sixth grader, a top chef and retired school teacher fight what seems like an unwinnable war until they discover their impact may reach further than their action. In each of their unique journeys, these unforgettable people meet discouraging and unexpected challenges and must find a way to persevere, despite being constantly reminded, “Don’t you know world hunger is far too big for one person?”
Trespassing Bergman (Dirs. Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas; Sweden, 2014)
In the 1960s, Ingmar Bergman moved to the small island of Fårö in the Baltic Sea. This film invites some of the world’s most renowned filmmakers and stars to visit the island and share their opinion of the late, great Swedish auteur, including Michael Haneke, Claire Denis, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Isabella Rossellini, Zhang Yimou, Francis Ford Coppola, Takeshi Kitano, Wes Anderson, Lars von Trier, Robert De Niro, and Ridley Scott.
Minneapolis film producer William Pohlad had a fine night at Sunday’s 62nd Annual British Academy Film Awards. His weighty historical drama “12 Years A Slave” took the best picture prize. Its star Chiwetel Ejiofor was named best actor.
"We’re honored '12 Years A Slave' received best picture from the BAFTAs,” Pohlad commented Monday. “This kind of bold storytelling is always what interests [Pohlad’s production company] River Road and for it to be embraced and championed in this way is incredibly gratifying. Producing a film like this alongside [Brad Pitt’s company] Plan B, with the vision of [director] Steve McQueen and the affecting performances by a remarkable cast was a humbling experience and one we’re proud to have had a guiding hand in.”
It was a night of celebration as well for Minneapolis actor Barkhad Abdi, who won best supporting actor for his turn as a Somali pirate in “Captain Phillips.”
It’s not clear whether these wins boosted the Minnesotans’ odds of winning an Academy Award. In the last 30 years, the BAFTA best picture winner matched the Oscar winner 40 percent of the time. The best supporting actor went on to accept the Academy Award 26 percent of the time. Jared Leto, the clear Oscar favorite in that category, was not nominated for the BAFTA.
The theaters at St. Anthony Main are celebrating two one-of-a-kind talents with special tributes over the next several weeks.
Through Feb. 20, the theater is honoring the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman with two of his most impressive, most challenging performances, “Capote” and “The Master.”
Hoffman won a best actor Oscar for his shrewdly observed portrayal of Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s biographical drama “Capote.” The film focuses on the six years the author devoted to researching and writing his revolutionary true-crime “novel” “In Cold Blood,” a book that changed the face of journalism. The film shows us a process that erodes the writer’s soul (he seductively exploits and manipulates everyone he encounters on this mammoth assignment) while gilding his reputation. Hoffman captured Capote’s mannerism to perfection, but his performance is beyond mimicry. It’s some form of eerie transformation.
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a man of aspiring intellect, the founder of a pseudo-scientific spiritual cult. He establishes a conflicted father-son dynamic with a man of irrepressible, primal passions (Joaquin Phoenix.) The film has been seen as a thinly veiled biopic of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but there are strong, strange subterranean currents flowing through it. The protagonists’ dance of desire and disillusionment with one another is white-hot with emotion, with scenes so powerful they shadow you like a physical presence for days.
From Feb. 21 through March 3, the Film Society of Minneapolis and St. Paul will present a Wes Anderson retrospective at the St. Anthony Main and Parkway theaters. The St. Anthony Main titles are “Bottle Rocket,” Feb. 21-22; “Moonrise Kingdom,” Feb. 21 and 23; and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Feb. 22-23. At the Parkway, it’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” Feb. 27; “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” Feb. 28; and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” March 2-3.The final presentation will be a members-only free, advance screening of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” 7 p.m.Monday, March 10 back at St. Anthony Main. Information about RSVPing for the screening, as well as becoming a Film Society member can be found here.
Cultural preservation expert Cori Wegener
With the George Clooney film "Monuments Men" now in theaters, the topic of cultural preservation in war zones and other disaster areas (manmade or natural) is a hot topic. The Clooney film tracks a group of art historians, restorers and aesthetes charged with saving cultural treasures in Europe, Japan and elsewhere during WWII.
The need for such skills remains, especially in the Middle East which is about equally rich in archeological artifacts and violent conflicts. Former Minneapolis Institute of Arts assistant curator Cori Wegener, a U.S. army vet, was an "Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer" stationed in Iraq for 11 months during 2003-04 following the looting of the national museum and other cultural repositories there. She now bringsl that experience to bear as a cultural heritage preservation officer in the Office of the Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smthsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. A major in the U.S. Army Reserves, she retired from the service in 2004 after 21 years.
Wegener will talk about her experiences at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 in the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, 2115 Summit Av., University of St. Thomas campus, St. Paul. The event is free. For accessibility information call 651-962-6315.
The Walker Art Center is bringing back its cat-video festival back to its Open Field, were this family of feline fanciers were photographed at the fest's 2012 debut.
Cats may roam, but eventually they come back home.
On Aug. 14, the Walker Art Center will reprise its stunningly popular Internet Cat Video Festival for a third year -- this time back on Open Field, the rolling green expanse next to the museum where 10,000 people gathered for rhe first fest in 2012.
Intended only as an experiment at first, the festival became a stellar example of togetherness in the Internet age, a place where people fond of viewing cat videos, one of the most universally popular online time-wasters, could gather IRL (in real life) for communal enjoyment of the same thing on a giant screen.
The event drew international media attention from sources as varied as the New York Times, the BBC and CHEEZburger, a website largely responsible for popularizing cat videos in the first place. The fest has also helepd to make stars of Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and other furry little divas, as well as spawned several -- ahem -- copycats, but do not be fooled: The Walker can rightfully lay claim to conceiving the original animal.
Last year the fest was moved to the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair, because construction at the Walker made field access problematic and they anticipated an even bigger crowd. The move drew criticsm from purists who felt the magic would be lost due to both the less-than-sylvan venue and the cost. The first fest was free, but last year attendees had to pay $10 on top of fair admission.Still, it drew an even bigger crowd of 11,000.
Sarah Schultz, the Walker's director of education and curator of public practice, called the State Fair "an excellent alternative venue to host a large crowd" but said that a return to Open Field was always the plan, now that construction is complete.
This summer’s fest will be programmed by inaugural Golden Kitty (people's choice) award-winner Will Braden, the video producer behind perennially angst-filled Henri le Chat Noir. Information about video submissions and event details will be announced next month.
Some observers wonder whether the cat-video supernova burned too bright, too fast, to last. The Walker folks aren't worried about its enduring appeal.
"Cat video fans are a passionate bunch,"said publicist Rachel Joyce, noting that the festival's tours to other cities has increased the fan base. "I don't think it's time for the cat to jump the shark just yet. But it might make a cool video."
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