Scheduled after the Tribeca Film Festival and Cannes, it wouldn’t seem like Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual Cinemafest, held June 15-26, should be able to come up with any movies worth watching, but somehow they do. Premieres from Todd Solondz, Werner Herzog and two dozen other well-chosen films make this festival worth the trip to the most over-hyped borough in New York.
LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD
Here’s the least exciting premise for a movie ever: An old white guy interviews various people about life in the internet age. Sounds awful, right? Like a Tom Friedman bestseller? But we’re in luck, because in this case the old white guy is Werner Herzog, director of “Grizzly Man,” “Fitzcarraldo,” and too many other classic movies to name. In this go-round Herzog applies his famous dry absurdist wit to the latest technological marvels, and creates yet another entertaining document of life on planet earth.
IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE
It’s tough to make a Western these days. After the revisionist Westerns of the sixties, and “Blazing Saddles,” and “The Hateful Eight,” all the standard tropes look too absurd to be done straight. So you’re left making a post-modern “Western” Western, one that comments ironically on the old-style John Wayne Westerns. But the classic Western style keeps breaking through, because the Lone Drifter Taking his Revenge on the Town that Done him Wrong plot is just too compelling to bury under a layer of snark. And that’s the problem with Ti West’s film. It’s stuck in between a po-mo Tarantino Western and a straight-up Clint Eastwood Western, and doesn’t wholly work either way. It’s still worth seeing anyway. The cast is great – Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, cult star Karen Gillan, newcomer Taissa Farmiga, plus the guy that played Ziggy on Season 2 of The Wire. Unfortunately, they don’t all seem to be acting in the same movie: some of them chew scenery while others play it more naturally. Nevertheless, it’s worth a look for fans of Westerns.
MORRIS FROM AMERICA
Top-notch father-son/coming of age/fish out of water comedy by Chad Hartigan. Markees Christmas (!) plays an adolescent wannabe rap star from the Bronx stuck in Heidelberg with his single dad, played by Craig Robinson from The Office. The kid falls in love with a 15-year-old femme fatale, and total adolescent confusion ensues. The movie pulls off the neat trick of being sweet without ever becoming cloying.
Not a documentary about a disgraced politician, this is Todd Solondz’ latest movie. Apparently one segment is a sequel to his classic “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” with Greta Gerwig in the role previously played by Heather Matarazzo. I didn’t get an invite to the press screening of this movie, so I can only assume that IT SUCKKKKKKED.
Also of note:
“Little Men” stars Greg Kinnear as a guy who inherits an apartment in Brooklyn. He moves his family there while he tries to get his shit together. The kids in the movie – Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri – steal the show.
“Little Sister” stars Addison Timlin as a young woman who wants to be a nun. Or a goth. She can’t seem to decide, so she travels back home to North Carolina while she tries to get her shit together. Decent movie with one great scene involving a Gwar song.
“A Woman, A Part” involves a successful actress who has a nervous breakdown, so she moves to Brooklyn while she tries to get her shit together, etc. The pace is kind of sloooow and the characters unlikable. Watch at your own risk.
Those are my picks. I might also take the ferry (or however you get to Brooklyn) to see the documentary about JT Leroy. Plus there’s a panel with Lena Dunham, because that’s some kind of Brooklyn film festival requirement. More info about the fest is here.