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Oct 22nd
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Reviews and Times

Still Not Bored With …The Rings

Still Not Bored With …The Rings‘Return of the King’  reigns supreme

Good and evil, light and darkness, the quest for peace and the battle to attain it all come to a metaphysical fork in the road in the emotionally packed climax of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, a stunning, often mesmerizing finale to the director’s Rings trilogy. Remaining true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s trifurcated thousand-page tome, Jackson sweeps his audience into another mindbending experience and manages to evoke authentic emotion sans any garden-variety filmmaking manipulation (i.e too many crescendos in the soundtrack; grandiose fx aimed more to titillate than actually intrigue). The director further surprises by gracefully shifting gears—from the intense to the poetic—at all the proper junctures. He successfully gives birth to a more than satisfying ending to the epic that has held moviegoers in suspense for two years (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, followed by 2002’s LOTR: The Two Towers).  In the end,

Reviews and Times

Thanks For the Angst

Peter Hedges takes a swing at directing and delivers a moving spectacle with ‘Pieces of April’

If you’ve ever wondered why those Kodak Moments never really feel like Kodak Moments—especially during the holidays when family gatherings are more frequent and, for some, a bit mindbending—then Pieces of April will certainly resonate. However, first-time director Peter Hedges’ heartwarming film isn’t only designed for those who can appreciate and be amused by family dysfunction or the thirst for sanity in seemingly insane situations. (Admit it, you only get annoyed when Aunt Frida, between psychotic breaks, chews her food before she feeds it to her darling Liza, that old, toothless, balding pet poodle hiding underneath the dinner table.)

Pieces of April is a triumph for other reasons. It’s realistic. More importantly, it’s believable. The actors shine. The script, penned by Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy) is a lovely mosaic of all the torment and sorrow and hope and desire many of us feel when dealing with certain family members who’ve failed to live up to our expectations. When most directors would have played a movie about family over- the-top, Hedges surprises by taking the road less traveled, delivering an understated, often humorous opus with true grace.

Reviews and Times

The Elephant in the Living Room

Gus Van Sant’s ponders school violence and heads the top of his class with ‘Elephant’

Gus Van Sant delivers a haunting, hypnotic, mesmerizing odyssey in Elephant. This fascinating piece of cinema tells you nothing, but shows you everything you need to see about the complex issues of violence and school shootings. Often poetic, and a bit esoteric, in the way Van Sant unravels his mindbender, he suspends  his audience in a visual symphony rife with subtle yet artistic shifts in tempo, all of which crescendo toward a dramatic finale that is both stunning and perplexing. It’s one of the best films of the year.

Reviews and Times

Will Ferrell: Elf Help

Will Ferrell: Elf Help

Why Will Ferrell is subdued, existential and elfish

San Francisco. Balmy day. Clift Hotel. Chic. Hotel doesn’t have its name on the front of the building. Beyond chic. The doorman doesn’t smile.

Interview. Will Ferrell. Twenty minutes. Curious. Excited. Cool guy. Loved his Saturday Night Live sketches. Baby Don’t Hurt Me —hilarious. His Janet Reno—transcendent. Funny in Old School.

The elevators. Dimly lit. Moody. Different colors. One red. One green. Christmas shades. Ironic. Will Ferrell stars in Elf, a Christmas movie. Plays a 30-year-old Elf who grew up with other elves in the North Pole after accidentally crawling into Santa’s bag one Christmas. Funny concept. Funny movie. Funny guy.

The 17th floor. No Ferrell. TV crew preps for an afternoon interview. Lots of garland around. Beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Reviews and Times

Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes

Last year, she nearly nabbed an Oscar for ‘Unfaithful’ but these days Diane Lane is all about faith

Drenched in obsidian attire, Diane Lane breezes into the room and immediately rolls up her sleeves. Carefree lady? Woman on a mission? Both.

The first thing she does is attack a packet of Zen tea at the refreshment table. Then she ambles gracefully toward a chair, sits down and smiles. She sips her tea. She fidgets. She folds one arm over the other, resting them in front of her abdomen.

Diane Lane is relaxed.

Diane Lane is nervous.

Diane Lane is about the take the biggest gamble of her entire career—headline a major motion picture.

Reviews and Times

Bearing the Cross

‘The Magdalene Sisters’ airs the dirty laundry of the Catholic Church

Sister Bridget is not in a good mood. But she’s in perfect form. With Girl Interrupted finesse, she snatches a pair of scissors, spots her target and descends upon it without so much of a sign of the cross. Moments later, the young rebellious woman the nun had been monitoring is sporting a new hairdo. She’s also left with blood streaming from her scalp.

Twisted sister? Let’s have another look.

Reviews and Times

Blowing Off Brenda

The famous Polish Brothers take a road trip, rattle Santa Cruz and chat up their mind-bending indie flick Northfork. But they’re not hitting cruise control just yet.

When Michael and Mark Polish mount Brenda it’s hard not watch in a bit of stupefied, surreal fascination. They’re not quite panting, but they are grinning ear to ear as their hands scale Brenda’s long, smooth body.

Clearly, the brothers Polish are fond of the lady, even though they’ll most certainly dump her the minute Daryl Hannah arrives.

Wait a sec … let’s shift gears. This whole visual on Brenda is actually where the story ends—the climax, so to speak—and in this case, surprisingly enough, considering the people involved, it’s best to go linear, even though frothy tales suggesting ménage a trois sound much more adventurous and delicious when read back aloud to others sitting in the room with you. (Go ahead … I’ll wait.)

Reviews and Times

On With The Show

Todd Graff pumps ‘Camp’ with passion, wit and charm. So, why is he biting his nails? (Did we mention it’s his directorial debut?)

When I was 13, I played the viola just because it was different. It was. And so was I. What the hell is a viola? was the typical response. (Like myself at the time, that oft overlooked stringed instrument just seemed out of place in the world.) In the end, my alto-cleff’d cohort—and my expanding teenage waistline—became the ridicule of the school band. I didn’t help that I wore a retainer, had a horrible faux Sean Cassidy hairdo that was two years out of date and that to I chose Stanislaus as my Catholic Confirmation name. (Sorry, St. Stan, it wound up becoming the most hellish, old-world, three-syllabled moniker I could have chosen.)  Summer camp was worse. While watching active teens frolic in camp,

Reviews and Times

Heaven ... Then Hell

Heaven ... Then Hell

Angels soar, but did the devil steal the plot?

In 1976, I was a fat Polish kid in Chicago. I wore a retainer, had a dysfunctional family and was oddly drawn to Farrah Fawcett. (I figured out the true meaning of that in therapy, but let’s move onto … more about me.)

Charlie’s Angels was the most popular TV series on the tube at the time and I was a pop culture junkie. I created a scrapbook of the Angels, and chronicled the publicity that the actresses, and the show, received over the next five years in a flimsy paper-filled 11 by 17 scrapbook I bought at the local five and dime: Farrah left, Cheryl Ladd came in, Kate Jackson left, Shelley Hack came in—I never thought the producer’s should have dumped Hack, but what can you do?—and after Hack, along came Tanya Roberts. Most everyone seemed drawn to the show and the Angels mystique and mindless appeal. It was purely escapist fare and my scrapbook was a bloated three-volumed beast.

Flashforward to 2000: suddenly ...

Reviews and Times

Director Andrew Jarecki on The Friedmans

Capturing the Friedmans, this year’s Memento, nabbed the Grand Jury Prize Award at the Sundance Film Festival months ago and sent the film industry buzzing. How did a guy who set out to make a light-hearted documentary about Silly Billy, one of New York City’s better-known children’s party clowns, eventually find himself overhauling the entire project to create the year’s most mind-bending tale—a tale about sex, lies and old film reels that revolved around the criminal case that dismantled the clown’s entire family? To this day, Jarecki remains stumped over the Friedman case.

“I always did feel that the truth is a very difficult thing to figure out,” Jarecki says in a recent interview with GT.

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Field Work

Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers explain how the harvest works, and what kind of wine to expect from this year's crop


Libra's Two Choices

Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.


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United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
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