Don't worry if you don't know whether to laugh at or pity Paul Aufiero, the New York Giants fanatic at the center of director Robert Siegel's occasionally funny and sometimes moving film. That's the way Big Fan wants it. Played by comedian Patton Oswalt (in a role that's far from comic), Paul — a 36-year-old, minimum-wage-earning parking-lot attendant — still lives with his mom and is the kind of guy who writes down what he wants to say before he makes his nightly call to sports-talk radio. He can't afford season tickets, so he sits in the parking lot with his best friend listening to the games after all the other tailgaters head inside the stadium. One night, he follows the Giants' star linebacker, Quantrell Bishop, into a strip club and proceeds to get his ass kicked by his hero.
Paul ends up in the hospital, but he's more concerned how Quantrell's suspension will affect the team than he is with seeing justice served. Paul is a true fanatic; he can't bring himself to press charges against his hero. "I don't want to be one of those assholes who sues Burger King because his Whopper is too hot," he tells his attorney brother. Oswalt (who was the voice of Remy the rat in Ratatouille) is great as the devoted fan; Kevin Corrigan is also terrific as his loyal pal. Siegel also wrote The Wrestler, and he expertly mines the other side of the game for similar results in his directorial debut. There are some darkly funny moments in Big Fan. But nobody plays it for laughs in this warped, wonderful look at fanaticism pushed to the breaking point. (Michael Gallucci)
Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.
At 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21,
and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22.
Pirate Radio 1/2
Set in the late '60s — "the greatest era for British rock 'n' roll," a pre-titles card tells us — this thin story about the renegade DJs who broadcast music from a boat at sea is really just an excuse to champion rock music from the era. Back then, British radio played barely an hour's worth of rock music. The heroes of Radio Rock — led by hotshot American the Count (a bearded Philip Seymour Hoffman) and flashy Brit Gavin (Rhys Ifans) — right this wrong, pitting themselves against a bunch of uptight, suit-wearing boardroom fogies, fronted by a frowning Kenneth Branagh, whose pitbull is a guy named Twatt. Pirate Radio is seen mostly through the eyes of teen Carl (Tom Sturridge), who's kicked out of school and sent by his mom to spend some time on the floating pirate-radio station with his godfather (Bill Nighy), Radio Rock's mastermind. Even if there isn't much to the movie (despite its two-hour-plus length), it's hard not to cheer for these characters (loosely based on real people and played by guys who were in The Flight of the Conchords and Shaun of the Dead). It's also loaded with classics by the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Who and many others. So you can't beat the music. (Gallucci)
Francis Ford Coppola's follow-up to his virtually unwatchable 2007 debacle Youth Without Youth is the 70-year-old director's finest work in almost two decades. Working from his first original screenplay since 1974's The Conversation, this grandly operatic tale of two siblings (a remarkable, impressively restrained Vincent Gallo and sensational newcomer Alden Ehrenreich) with daddy issues (Klaus Maria Brandauer plays their imperious orchestra-conductor father) is both loving homage to the heady days of the French New Wave and a glorious throwback to the kind of tempestuous Oedipal dramas Hollywood vets Nicholas Ray and Elia Kazan made back in the 1950s. Spectacularly shot in widescreen, cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr.'s high-contrast, black-and-white digital-video images are a feast for the senses. Co-starring Y Tu Mamá También's Maribel Verdú (terrific as Gallo's pragmatic common-law wife) and Almodóvar diva extraordinaire Carmen Maura, it's a self-contained film festival. Anyone who cares about the state of world cinema can't afford to miss it. (Milan Paurich)
Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.
At 9:35 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21,
and 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22
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