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Film - Reviews and Times

Reel Connection

Reel Connection

Pacific Rim Film Festival promotes cross-cultural understanding 

The aloha spirit returns to Santa Cruz when the 24th annual Pacific Rim Film Festival unspools this week. Inspired by the Hawaii International Film Festival, and dedicated to cross-cultural understanding around the theme "When Strangers Meet," the six-day event runs Oct. 19-24, offering 20 films from countries all around the Pacific Rim at five venues countywide.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 18

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 18

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 11th

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 11th

Films This Week
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Film - Reviews and Times

High School Confidential

High School Confidential

Cult teen novel morphs into disarming film in 'Perks Of Being A Wallflower'  

Anyone who's ever felt like an outsider in high school—which is anyone who has ever been a teenager—will be able to relate to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It's adapted from Stephen Chbosky's 1999 Young Adult cult novel sensation about a troubled teen entering his freshman year of high school desperately searching for someone to connect with before his internal demons swallow him up. It may sound overly melodramatic, although in this case, the protagonist's demons are more real and sinister than most. But the importance of finding an emotional safety net and a place to fit in gives this disarming movie a very universal appeal.

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Film - Reviews and Times

School Daze

School Daze

Smart, funny college-nostalgia comedy 'Liberal Arts' makes the grade

As Thomas Wolfe once said, you can't go home again. According to Josh Radnor, in his smart, entertaining comedy Liberal Arts, you can't go back to college again, either. Whether or not you should want to is the driving force that propels Radnor's thoughtful, funny film, as the ferment of campus life, with all its drama, romance, and terror, where Wolfe and succeeding generations of literary mentors hold such sway, is re-examined by a protagonist in his 30s who's still having a hard time coming of age.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 04

Film, Times & Events: Week of Oct. 04

Films This Week
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Film - Reviews and Times

Second Rate

Second Rate

Big technique, minor story in underwhelming ‘The Master’

There are some astonishing moments early in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, when something really seems to be going on. As the Navy seaman played by Joaquin Phoenix behaves badly just before and after the end of World War II—cooking and drinking lethal alcohol out of whatever fuel is handy, dry-humping a sand sculpture of a nude woman on the beach, laughing inappropriately at the therapists in the VA hospital—the movie seems to have its own wildly original vitality. Then we begin to notice how threadbare the emperor’s clothes really are.

In broad compositions, story structure, and snatches of incidental music, The Master soon starts to feel a lot like Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Once again, he relies on powerhouse acting—here, Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman—to distract the audience away from the lack of substance or meaning or plot in Anderson’s script. As Phoenix’s lost soul and Hoffman’s cult leader go head-to-head—drinking, raging, psyching each other out, or, most alarming, engaging in queasy-making bromance bear hugs—we start to realize that’s all there is to The Master. It’s a dual character study in search of a story.

Freddy Quell (Phoenix) is a horny, alcoholic screw-up who can’t get a grip after the war. Extinguishing his job as a department store portrait photographer with an unprovoked attack on a customer, then driven out of the produce fields by enraged Filipino migrant workers for cooking bad hooch, he hops aboard a luxury yacht leaving San Francisco Bay. There he falls under the spell of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a patriarchal figure with a facade of serenity who leads his large entourage in a belief system called The Cause.

Where Dodd comes from or what exactly he stands for remain elusive. He dabbles in past-life regression, urges his followers to elevate their species above animals (although Quell doesn’t quite get that part, eager to pummel anyone who begs to differ with Dodd’s message), and goes in for mentally abusive “processing” to break down his followers’ resistance. (“Do you ever think about how inconsequential you are?”) Meanwhile, his wife, Peggy (Amy Adams) coaches them on proactively attacking their attackers, otherwise “we will never dominate the environment the way we should.”

It would help if we ever had a clue what they were talking about or what they want to achieve. But once volatile Quell meets loony-tunes Dodd (who might break out at any moment into “I Want to Get You On a Slow Boat to China” for no reason), that’s it for plot development. Dodd elevates drunken Quell into his inner circle, to the despair of his family, evidently because his ego requires someone as hopeless as Quell to dominate. But despite the danse macabre between the two of them that lasts the rest of the movie, they never seem to connect with nor enlighten each other in any comprehensible way.

Anderson can get inarticulate rage up onscreen. But, like his characters, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Is he commenting on postwar trauma? The psychology of the cult follower (or leader)? Who knows? No one undergoes any kind of personal transformation or gains any insight, and with no narrative drive to prop up the flaccid story, the movie just lies there, twitching.

Moments of apparent dramatic intensity turn out to be fueled by Jonny Greenwood’s jittery, propulsive music, coupled with the built-in suspense of wondering how long Phoenix can maintain the same bent, gnarled stance of pent-up aggression. (Answer: for the entire movie. Phoenix’s bravura performance deserves some kind of endurance award, at least. So do we.)

Anderson has paid attention to physical scope; he shot in 65 mm, using lots of large vistas of deserts, beaches, canyons. He’s adept at long, complex tracking shots, full of perfectly choreographed action. Yet the simplest mechanics of storytelling often elude him, like the improbable moment when an usher brings in a cradle telephone (on what must be the world’s longest cord) into a theater balcony during the movie so a patron can take a call.

Anderson doesn’t seem to care if something makes sense as long as it looks cool, just as he doesn’t care if The Master adds up to anything, so long as it has the appearance of profundity. 


THE MASTER

★★ (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A Weinstein Co. release. Rated R. 137 minutes.

Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 27th

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 27th

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
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Movie Times click here.
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Film - Reviews and Times

Soul Food

Soul Food

'Chicken With Plums' is a luscious, imaginative love story

First there was Persepolis, a gorgeously rendered black-and-white animated film about growing up female in Iran based on the graphic novel memoir by Marjane Satrapi. Now, Satrapi and her filmmaking partner Vincent Paronnaud are back with a splendid sophomore effort, Chicken With Plums.

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Film - Reviews and Times

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 20th

Film, Times & Events: Week of Sept. 20th

Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
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Movie Times click here.
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The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

His Dinner With David

Author + reporter = brainy talk in ‘End of the Tour’
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Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual