Who was Sophie Tucker? Born Sonya Kalish in 1887, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker walks us through her rags to riches climb to the top of vaudeville in the early 20th Century and makes a strong case for her as the true original sassy, strong blonde—long before Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, and even Mae West.
Tucker seems like she was a riot: she stayed out all night and slept until afternoon, she had a girlfriend during the Depression, and J. Edgar Hoover (allegedly) wanted one of her gowns. Thoroughly enjoyable on multiple levels and from multiple perspectives, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is historical, political, social, and even prurient (i.e., celebrity gossip from Hollywood’s Golden Era). It also celebrates early Jewish contributions to American entertainment—remarkable for a time when being Jewish wasn’t exactly kosher in America.
After his wife leaves him, Marko (Boris Milivojevic) comes up with a way to revitalize his janky small Serbian town—and hopefully win back his wife, Ljubinka (Natasa Tapuskovic), in the process: he sets his sights on replacing a dreary old communist monument in the town center with something more exciting and “current:” a statue of the King of Pop, who he claims is attending its unveiling. You knock me off my feet now, baby…whooooo!
Monument to Michael Jackson is strange and wonderfully sublime, even if it is melancholy. The characters are realistic and fully developed, and the story is loaded with twists I didn’t see coming—like the reaction of many townspeople and the date of the unveiling (on May 25, 2009, the day Jackson died). I liked it, even with an ending that goes somewhere I was not expecting—at all. This definitely is not an American movie.
Director Darko Lungulov previously did Here and There, which I know from Cyndi Lauper’s title song for the soundtrack. Her husband, David Thornton, starred in it.
Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg are sisters who fall for the same man, Marc (Benoit Poelvoorde), unbeknownst to all three of them, in this very French melodrama directed by Benoît Jacquot.One sister gets the guy, the other does not. The reality of their bizarre love triangle slowly emerges, causing plot twists and character turns.
A few things made no sense to me. I didn’t see the attraction to Marc. I found very little chemistry between him and either sister. Catherine Deneuve is the sisters’ mother, a curiously inconsequential role–I’m not sure why she took it. I preferred her covered in horse shit in Belle du jour, anyway.
Thanks to a schedule change, I had to leave this one right before the end so I could get to my next screening. If 3 Hearts had a point to make, it was lost on me. Still, I would have liked to see how this wrapped up.
Essentially an oral history of the Black Panther Party, Stanley Nelson covers every angle. Beginning with the social and political climate in American cities following desegregation, he moves through the Party’s formation, rise, fall, and ultimate splintering to demonstrate its impact. I found it immensely interesting for its historical perspective, but also remarkable for its overall objectivity. Interviewing members past and present who stayed and strayed, he leaves it to the viewer to decide whether the Party’s leaders and strategies were right or wrong.
Only in America can something like a ball of twine serve as a point of pride and a heated contest that continues after 50 years. But that’s exactly what it was for Francis Johnson of Darwin, Minnesota, and Frank Stoeber of Cawker City, Kansas, as the two competed in the “Battle of the Balls” for the prestigious title of “World’s Largest Ball of Twine.”
Trivial but amusing. I can relate to a schlep to Nowhere for no other purpose than the goofy thrill of seeing some bizarre roadside attraction like the world’s tallest thermometer (done it) or prairie dog (have not). I expected a more interesting execution of the story, though. The World’s Largest Ball of Twine does a nice job getting behind its subject matter—it just turns out that its subject matter isn’t all that interesting. Side note: the graphics looked cheap and gimmicky; intentional or not, this detracted from the experience.
A suspended alcoholic detective (Liao Fan) is pulled back into the game when a gruesome murder is committed—and it looks a lot like the same case that got him suspended five years before. A woman (Gwei Lun-Mei) working at a dry cleaner holds the key to the mystery.
Diao Yinan’s Black Coal, Thin Ice (Daylight Fireworks in China) is a beautifully shot film noir drama. Everything about it is icy and cold: its story, themes, and style all bring a chill. One shootout scene at a hair salon wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino movie. Intricate and complicated, it’s a pity I was tired for it. I suspect I missed a bit of interesting subtext that would have made this even more enjoyable.
Breaking up is hard to do, but for thirty-something cartoonist Max Quintana (Luis Arreita) it’s impossible: he fails every time he tries to dump his domineering girlfriend, Monica (Cassandra Ciangherotti). When she misreads his intentions as a marriage proposal, he “hires” an agency to do his dirty work for him. What did he get himself into?
Wry, cynical, and weird, I really liked Happy Times. It was paced using a similar plot device that the Coen brothers use, which worked really well keeping the story moving along in an interesting way. This was fun to watch—and the ending is not happy. Bonus!
Interviews with Parisian craftsmen working for big names in haute couture—Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent—and their view on the future of fashion. Hand Made with Love in France was interesting and even amusing at points. It shows the massive amount of work and attention to detail that goes into making fine clothing. However, it did not deliver on what it promised, exactly.
The craftsmen discussed the impending death of their craft. While not in itself a bad thing, I expected the focus to be somewhere else—specifically, the cheap quality of today’s so-called “luxury” goods. Faux pas! I thought this would be more fun and less handwringing about tomorrow.
Four high school age boys in Oslo—Kim (Louis Williams), Gunnar (Ole Nicolai Myrvoid Jorgensen), Ola (Halvor Tangen Schultz), and Seb (Havard Jackwitz)—are not very different from most boys their age. They do things like steal hood ornaments from cars, get trashed at school dances, and stalk girls. They love the Beatles, so much that they each adopt a Beatles persona and hatch a plan start a band, the Snafus.
Based on Lars Saabye Christensen’s novel, Beatles is a sugar and salt (the name of a Snafus song) coming of age film. It’s sappy nostalgia celebrating a simpler time—think The Wonder Years with a cooler European bent. Set during the late Sixties, it hits a universal note that stops it from sliding into oversentimental dreck. I love all the Beatles references, and how well the film captures the feel of total devotion to a pop star. One scene in which the four boys stop everything to listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the day it comes out is gold; it reminds me so much of my own idols in the MTV era. Performances are strong all around. Beatles is not the kind of thing I usually go for, but it is easily one of my favorites from the festival.
Seminal semisweet documentary about “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, the eccentric and probably mentally ill aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis living on a ramshackle estate in East Hampton, New York. Grey Gardens makes anyone who has ever appeared on Hoarders look like an amateur poseur. Just like any other train wreck, it’s impossible to look away even if it’s hard to watch at points. Yet, neither Edie seems miserable, wanting, or joyless. I guess whether you call it a happy or a sad film depends on perspective– something Albert and David Maysles no doubt intended.