April 23, 2009

MSPIFF: What to See in Week 2

The 27th Annual MSPIFF rolls into its second week today. I've been pleased with the six films I've seen so far, and with two nights off to do other things ("Caroline, or Change" at the Guthrie and Sin Nombre at the Uptown), I'm ready to jump back into it for seven straight nights, beginning tonight.

Film Goats: Last Friday we had a good dozen people show up to share thoughts on the festival at Pracna, and we're going to go for it again tomorrow, this time at 9:00 PM at Pracna instead of 5:30 PM. I'm going to be coming out of The Song of Sparrows and will head straight over - come one, come all. Unfortunately you might miss us if you're going to one of the 9:00 or 10:00 PM screenings, but this way we'll be in the sweet spot if you're coming or going.

Now on to my recommendations for Week 2...

(Food, Inc., Three Monkeys, Tokyo Sonata, and Moon)

Again, many of these are playing more than once, so refer to the schedule if you can't make it on the day listed. Also, click on the "tickets" link and buy in advance so you can save a dollar, and remember that I haven't seen some of these but I'm recommending them on a hunch.

THURSDAY, 4/23 (tickets):

Rudo y Cursi (6:30 PM)
- Soccer comedy starring Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. It's played to mixed reviews since Sundance but it can't be all that bad. Director Carlos Cuaron (brother of Alfonso) will be present.

A Walk to Beautiful (7:15 PM)
- Documentary about the plight of women in Ethiopia suffering from fistulas. This is cosponsored by my employer, and will be followed by a discussion with the director.

The Secret of the Grain (9:15 PM)
- Drama about food and family, over 150 minutes long and sure to make you hungry. Kathie highly recommends it, but warns that it may be shown from a DVD.

FRIDAY, 4/24 (tickets):

Letters to the President (5:10 PM)
- Documentary about the struggle for democracy in Iran.

The Song of Sparrows (7:15 PM)
- Lighthearted drama about an ostrich farmer in Iran; the country's Oscar submission last year.

Food, Inc. (7:30 PM)
- Documentary about the industrialization and corporate takeover of the food and agricultural industries. Read my recommendation/preview here.
(3.5/4 stars)

Jerusalema (9:45 PM)
- Stylish gangster pic based on the true story of Lucky Kunene, a.k.a. the South African "Robin Hood". Read my capsule review from Vita.mn here. (2.5/4 stars)

Shakespeare and Victor Hugo's Intimacies (10:10 PM)
- Documentary about a mysterious artist/serial killer in Mexico City. Read my capsule review from Vita.mn here.
(3/4 stars)


The Necessities of Life (4:00 PM)

- Moving drama about an Inuit hunter recovering from TB in 1950's Quebec City. Read my capsule review from Vita.mn here. (4/4 stars)

Wounded Knee (2:35 PM)
- Documentary about 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, SD, between federal agents and members of the American Indian Movement. Read my capsule review from Vita.mn here. (3.5/4 stars)

Salt of This Sea (3:30 PM)
- Drama about a young Palestinian woman from Brooklyn who goes back to visit her homeland. Actress invited to this showing.

Three Monkeys (7:10 PM)
- Drama about a struggling Turkish family; the country's Oscar submission last year.
This film will also be available for viewing online.

Jerichow (9:20 PM)
- Contemporary German thriller described by words like "pulp" and "noir". Could be solid.

SUNDAY, 4/26

Lemon Tree (2:35 PM)
- Mature drama about Arab-Israeli relations starring Hiam Abbass (The Visitor).

Pride of Lions (3:00 PM)
- Documentary about war-torn Sierra Leone. Minnesota filmmaking team will be present.

Seraphine (4:45 PM)
- Biopic about the French painter Seraphine Louis. Winner of 7 Cesar Awards (French Oscars).

Tokyo Sonata (7:55 PM)
- Japanese drama apparently hiding undertones of horror and suspense, this 2008 Jury Prize winner at Cannes has been highly regarded by critics and bloggers.

Blind Loves (10:15 PM)
- Documentary exploring the love between blind couples and families. Saw this on Sunday night and loved it. (4/4 stars)

Heart of Fire (8:45 PM)
- Drama about child soldiers in Eritrea. Saw this on Monday night and loved it. (4/4 stars)

MONDAY, 4/27

Moon (7:00 PM)
- Sci-fi thriller starring Sam Rockwell, played to mixed reviews at Sundance. Director Duncan Jones to be present.

Rough Aunties (6:30 PM)
- Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance, an uplifting documentary about women caring for mistreated children in South Africa.


Tyson (6:45 PM)
- Documentary I pondered last May finally arrives after solid reviews at Sundance. Director James Toback to be present.

Shultes (7:30 PM)
- Russian drama/thriller about a lonely pickpocket. Could be absolutely gripping or absolutely boring.


The Infinite Border (9:30 PM)
- Documentary about Central Americans crossing over Mexico's border. An essential supplement to Sin Nombre, now playing at the Uptown.

Oblivion (7:15 PM)
- Documentary about street life in Lima, Peru.

Mutum (9:45 PM)
- Compassionate drama about a young boy growing up in rural Brazil. Read my capsule review from Vita.mn here. (3/4 stars)


The Brothers Bloom (7:00 PM)
- Con man comedy starring Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo. I'd like to see this but the ticket price is almost prohibitively steep considering this movie is being released in just a few weeks anyway. However, remember that you get free admission into the free-food-if-get-there-early Closing Night party at Seven Sushi if you have a ticket stub from any closing night film.

And with that, MSPIFF #27 will end, but lots of other options exist if you're not into the festival scene: new releases like State of Play, The Soloist, Sugar and Sin Nombre; Hunger at the Walker (last chance this weekend); the previously unreleased Crossing Over at the Parkway; and the continuation of the Hitchcock series with Rope at the Riverview.


  1. Well, Daniel, I have noticed that you have been on a rampage as of late, and to be honest your work has been so overwhelming in scope and quantity, that I haven't said much as of late here at this magnificent home of cinematic effervescence, simply to let things calm down and take in your opinions.
    Of the lineup above I have seen only four of the films: TOKYO SONATA, SONG OF THE SPARROWS, THE LEMON TREE and THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN, but there isn't a bad film among that group, although my favorite is the first one, the Kurosawa. I have seen SUGAR and SIN NOMBRE, but only liked the latter. But geez, there are a number of films here that look most interesting and I will wait to hear your report of attended screenings.

    I will be attending the Tribeca Film Festicval this upcoming week, but tickets are steep: $17, so I'll be attending with Broadway Bob: afilm by L. Puenzo, who directed XXY titled THE FISH CHILD and then another film by a Chinese director, entitled FISH EYES. No mistake there--"fish" is in both the titles, oddly.

  2. Cheers to festival season, Sam. That's fantastic that you and BB are braving the Tribeca ticket prices. It astounds me that you're able to afford Manhattan entertainment on a weekly basis, but I trust you just have your financial priorities in order.

    I'm excited about the four you mentioned, though I missed two chances at The Secret of the Grain. Hope to see it eventually, though.

    And I just read something about The Fish Child that sounded promising. Have fun fishing...

  3. Well Dan, as far as having my "financial priorities in order' well I won't go there. LOL!! We own our own home and pay a mortgage, but entertainment expenditures (which includes DVD purchases en masse) is way over-the-top, and needs to be scaled down.

    I would be very much interested in hearing your take on SECRET and the others, and will be checking back of course. I'll likewise appraise you of Trbeca.

  4. No need to scale down if you're getting your money's worth, right? Besides, it seems too many New Yorkers take for granted the entertainment at their disposal, and you savor each trip, as evidenced by your reports following an opera, musical, play, or film.

    And here's a positive word on Fish Eyes.


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