EBERTFEST: THUMBAPALOOZA 2003

Stone Reader ^ By Herb Kane ^ ***** ^ Directed by Mark Moskowitz
So why am I proud to live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? One reason is Mark Moskowitz’ “Stone Reader,” a documentary about one-time Cedar Rapids novelist Dow Mossman, author of “The Stones of Summer” (1972). Mark read the book when it first came out and then later read it again in 1998 (it’s now out-of-print). This time he became engrossed with the book and started to search for other books by Mossman. Absolutely nothing. Nothing! This started a yearlong journey to find the writer himself and lucky for us – Mark filmed it.
This literary detective story initially tries to find people who know Dow. Moskowitz interviews authors, professors, teachers and publishers and always seems to hit a dead-end. Nobody knows or even heard of Dow Mossman! Though he becomes increasingly frustrated, the very act of interviewing these people reveals how much joy and satisfaction people get from reading books. It literally celebrates literature. Soon fans will be able to find Dow’s book in stores. I can hardly wait to read it myself.
This documentary is a must see. If you like reading books, you’ll love it. If you don’t like reading books, you will after watching this movie.
The Grey Automobile ^ By Mike Hall ^ **** ^ Directed by Masayuki Suo
Films seldom grab me like El Automovil Gris (“The Grey Automobile”). The execution of the criminal gang in the powerful opening lays the groundwork for the strange, shocking, and often difficult to interpret events to follow.
As one who enjoys the, grrrrr, surreal, my appreciation for this film, especially as presented with the accompanying Japanese style Benshi performers, I was feasting on a powerful visual and auditory smorgasbord. Take, meeoooww, equal parts “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (the audience dresses & acts live with the cult film), Kung Faux (1970’s cheesy kung-fu movies are dubbed and presented with 2003 style attitude), and American/British style tabloid attack-media and we get this film, somehow.
This 1919 silent film is today more than the sum of its parts. Thanks to the imaginative Claudio Valdes Kuri we are afforded a fresh perspective at a widely forgotten medium. If only I understood Japanese, Spanish, German (?), Gibberish, Dog, and Cat. But then again…
Your Friends and Neighbors ^ By Herb Kane ^ *** ^ Directed by Neil LaBute
I think I would rather spend time with my own friends and neighbors than watch “Your Friends & Neighbors,” a film directed by Neil LaBute. The sex-craved characters are just too out there for me. I wanted to punch Jerry (Ben Stiller) who likes to talk during sex – although it did provide for some funny moments later in the film when his talking still haunts him. Bottom line: This movie is like watching a bunch of immature teenagers who grew up and became immature adults.
Roger Ebert said, “The underlying truth is that no one cares for or about anybody else very much, and all of the fooling around is just an exercise in selfishness.”
There is one aspect of the film I enjoyed that took place in an art museum. Various characters, shown in separate scenes, stand next to Cheri (Nastassja Kinski), an artist’s assistant, and talk about a painting. The dialogue is similar in every shot and becomes funnier with each twist. Those scenes alone might make this film worth renting.
While Ebert says “it’s the kind of date movie that makes you want to go home alone,” I think I’d rather just stay home.
Blood and Wine ^ By Herb Kane ^ **** ^ Directed by Bob Rafelson
I was eager to see “Blood and Wine” because Jack Nicholson was the star of the film and I expected something really special. In fact, Ebert said in his review, “This is one of Nicholson’s best performances…” I can think of better ones like “About Schmidt” (2002), “As Good As It Gets” (1997), “A Few Good Men” (1992), “The Shining” (1980), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), etc., etc. etc. This movie isn’t one of them. If anything, it’s one of Jennifer Lopez’ better performances. I liked her in “The Cell” (2000) and, uh….hmm. Anyway…
“Blood and Wine” is a good little crime drama and you won’t be disappointed if you rent it from your local video store. I’ve always liked stories about bad guys trying to get away with heists and in “Blood and Wine” we have two losers – Alex Gates (Jack Nicholson) who is hated by his wife and son, and slimeball Victor Spansky (Michael Caine) – who successfully steal a diamond necklace from a rich home. The story, however, focuses on how their life has become one big crime in and of itself and the film unfolds nicely by utilizing the supporting characters.
Ebert said in his review, “The other roles are given almost equal weight; the supporting characters aren’t atmosphere, but are crucial to the story, and one sign of the good writing is in the way other relationships (the mother and her son, the son and Gabrielle) affect the outcome of the plot.”
This wasn’t one of the better movies presented at the Virginia, and it certainly wasn’t one of the worst. I think most people thought it was ok – including me.
More films in part five of EBERTFEST: THUMBAPALOOZA 2003>>>




Posted on May 20, 2003 in Festivals by
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